Naveen’s Restraint Stands Out

Naveen Patnaik – thefourteenth Chief Minister ofOdisha – has had an unusualjourney of twenty-five years in
politics. During this quartercentury of political exploration,Naveen has recalibrated politics,governance, and authority with asense of purpose andperseverance that has defined his leadership. Becoming a state’s
chief minister for the fifthconsecutive term is no ordinaryfeat, more than ever for a personwho had a tentative start inpolitics. When Biju Patnaik – thelegendary statesman and chiefarchitect of India’s Janata Dalpolitics – died in the summer of 1997, the major question oneveryone’s mind was: who wouldcome after Biju? Enthused by Biju
Babu’s – as he is popularly known- legion of admirers, Naveenplunged into politics and took upthe challenge of guiding thefortunes of the Janata Dal. Oncehe made up his mind, there wasno looking back. The formationof the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) inthe winter of 1997 changed theentire political landscape ofOdisha ceaselessly.Persistence: Tenacity is oneof the most outstanding traits ofNaveen Patnaik. It has served himwell in all his years in politics.His determination was on displayevery time he campaigned. Fromthe 1998 Aska Lok Sabha byelectionto the 2019 generalelections, Naveen Patnaik hasnever lost an election. He has wonthem with monotonous regularity.In the early days of his politicalcareer, the opposition took painsto portray him as an outsider andsomeone unfamiliar with thelanguage and culture of the state.Not with much success. Sincethen, Naveen has dominatedpolitics in Odisha. He is obsessedwith ‘Odisha’ and the ‘forty-fivemillion’ people – so much so thatthese two words have become arallying cry, a mantra. His abilityto ruthlessly eliminate politicalenemies is another attribute.Naveen Patnaik – the socialite
who loved to be in the companyof celebrities and who enjoyedreading and writing books – musthave, at some point in time, feltthat politics was a monumentaltask. But then he had to live up tothe expectations of a mass leaderlike Biju Patnaik. Biju Patnaikdominated the Odisha politicalscene for several decades.Dream: Biju Patnaik had adream. That dream was of makingOdisha the most economicallysound and developed state in thecountry. It has paid off more andmore over the past two and a halfdecades. In 1999, Odisha wasdevastated by a severe cyclone.
The ‘super cyclone’ – as it is called- killed no less than ten thousandpeople. This was a definingmoment for Odisha. WhenNaveen Patnaik became Chief Minister just a few months afterthe disaster, the task wasenormous. The losses seemedirreversible.The super cyclone was sodestructive that it could not getbetter. The Congress government
led by Giridhar Gamang had failed to deal with the aftermath of thetrauma. Mass discontent, coupledwith political instability andeconomic devastation, created anincredibly fragile situation.Consistency: It was at thismoment that Naveen and his BijuJanata Dal proved to be thesaviors. In the assembly electionsthat followed the disaster, voters
gave him absolute trust – trust intimes of challenge, as they say.They elected him enthusiastically,and Naveen was sworn in as ChiefMinister of Odisha for the firsttime in 2000. When Naveen tookover the leadership of the state,the era of political instability wasover and the era of developmentwas ushered in. The first task ofNaveen’s government in the newmillennium was to lift the poorand disadvantaged out of themorass. Many poverty alleviation
programs were initiated.Infrastructure development wasgiven top priority. Constructionof roads, bridges and other similarprojects was initiated. Withmoney from the center, variousprograms were launched-most of
them labeled “Biju”.Twenty-three years after thatstorm, Odisha has become a modelfor other states in dealing with
adversity. Naveen Patnaik’s motto’Zero Casualty’ has ushered in abrand-new era in disastermanagement. The state is alwaysprepared for any type of disasterand can handle disasters of anymagnitude at any time. NaveenPatnaik was new to politics. Onewho had never tasted politicalwater, he rose to the challenge ofgetting the beleaguered state back
on track. He knew the need of thehour. Having recognized theobstacles to effective leadershipand growth, he was able toovercome them.Transformation: Odisha hashistorically been a poor state withmyriad ills, of which poverty is
the most egregious. There is a bigdifference between what Odishawas in the 1980s and what it istoday. Forty years later, Odishais a leader in poverty reduction.The poverty rate has droppedfrom 63% to 29%. During the next
five years, the state expectspoverty to drop dramatically tojust 10 percent, down from thecurrent 29 percent. Odisha
suffered greatly from its financesbefore Naveen Patnaik becamechief minister. That situation haslong since changed. Having freeditself from an unfavorable fiscalsituation, Odisha has become astate with revenue surpluses.Decades ago, the state was in thepublic spotlight because ofhunger. That’s over now. It hasbecome one of the largest food
producers in the country. Foodsecurity for millions of people hasbeen ensured. In agriculture,Odisha is now the third largestrice producer in India. The ‘KrishiKarman Awards’ are testimony tothis achievement.This ability can be seenelsewhere as well. NaveenPatnaik’s ingenuity in dealing withthe Covid-19 pandemic wasunmatched. Providing oxygen tothose in need outside Odishaduring the second wave of Covidwas a remarkable achievement.The repatriation of millions ofmigrants, the free treatment ofCovid patients, the delegation ofthe powers of a Collector to Sarpanchs, and the classificationof workers engaged in the fightagainst the endemic disease as’Covid warriors’ were unheard ofanywhere else in the country.Women-centric: Womenhave always been the strength ofNaveen Patnaik’s government.’Mission Shakti’, which started asa women’s self-help groupinitiative, is now a solidassociation. It has been given SMEstatus. About eighty lakh womenin the state have become selfreliantthrough ‘Mission Shakti’.
After empowering womenthrough Self Help Groups(SHGs), the government hastransformed them into Small and Medium-sized Enterprises(SMEs) .They are envisaged tobecome vibrant financialhubs.Naveen Patnaik’s commitment to reserving 33percent of seats for women inparliament and state assembliesis further evidence of how
assiduously he has sought after this constituency.Not in theory, but in practice.By fielding women across a wide
range of age groups in the 2019Lok Sabha elections, NaveenPatnaik led by example.Makingsixty-year-old Pramila Bisoi theBJD’s Lok Sabha candidate inAska was a masterstroke. Thereis a 33% reservation for women
in the Lok Sabha. Politicalreservation for women inpanchayats and urban areas hasgiven them a distinct identity.
Seventy percent of Zilla Parisadpresidents and 55% of urban areashave women presidents. Thecoming to power of the Naveengovernment has resulted in manysuch pro-women measures. Ifwomen constitute a huge
constituency, then lakhs of youthhave found their way to selfemploymentthrough skilldevelopment. Compared to the
rest of the country, Odisha hasone of the lowest unemploymentrates.The ‘Kalia’ (KrushakAssistance for Livelihood andIncome Augmentation) program is Naveen Patnaik’s flagshipprogram for farmers. It waslaunched to strengthen thefinancial backbone of tenantfarmers who had been facingrecurring hardships due to naturalcalamities. About ten millionfarmers in the state benefit fromthis program.Happiness: ‘No one willmortgage land or money fortreatment,” is the slogan. The BijuSwasthya Kalyan Yojana SmartCard (BSKY) is the answer to theidea of cashless hospitalization.Sums of 10 lakhs for women and5 lakhs for men are provided ascashless medical services across
the country. It is not for nothingthat BSKY has become a gamechanger. Under the Jaga Mission,the urban poor and homeless havebeen given land rights. Odisha hasbecome the sports capital of thecountry. The once Maoistinfestedstate has transformed theleft-wing extremist areas into a’self-esteem region.’Naveen government’s one bigannouncement was to renovategovernment schools and makethem better than private schools.
Another bold decision was toreserve 15% of seats in subjectslike medicine and engineering forstudents of government schools.The number of students inboarding schools that belong toscheduled tribes in Odisha is
more than five lakh.Facelift: Odisha is also at theforefront of the country when itcomes to cracking down on thecorrupt. Naveen, who is morallyupright in his personal life, hasordered zero tolerance forcorruption. The transformation of the administration into a 5-Tauthority has brought aboutlandmark changes in the state.
‘Mo Sarkar’ (my government) isanother epithet that plays acentral role in the administration.It is no wonder that Naveen’s’Odisha model’ has become areplica for many because it hasmade the administration moretransparent, methodical, andcitizen-centric. It is due to thetireless efforts of his team thatthe state has become an attractive
target in the industry, informationtechnology, and the healthcaresectors. Pragmatic industrial policies have expandedopportunities for investment in the state. Investment pledges byIndian captains of industry, road
shows, and Naveen’s meetingswith investors in majormetropolitan cities are evidenceof this effort.Resolve: The five-time ChiefMinister is also a master strategistand a skilled mediator betweenpeople. These virtues have helped
Naveen Patnaik bring together theright people for the right job,formulate his party’s electionstrategy profitably, and continuethe momentum and resolve.Naveen has won electionstime and again. But, the 2014general election was different andsignificant because he bucked thenational trend and emerged as thesole winner. From here, Naveen
earned the moniker ‘giant killer’.Two and a half decades later,Naveen is the undisputed leader of Odisha and a national-levelleader of high standing. Thenumerous welfare programs hisgovernment has launched over
the years are part of a long-term strategy that gives the party anedge over its rivals. Each of theseprograms is carefully thought out and targets different segments of the population – “from the cradleto the grave.” Naveen made sure that all the development benefitswere passed on to the people atthe grassroots level. All this and more has paid off for him. Oneof the most distinctivecharacteristics of Naveen’spersona is that he is scrupulousand leaves nothing to chance.Naveen’s resilient leadershipskills, effective management andtight control are exceptional. He
has accepted four and a half crorepeople as his family. The bondis phenomenal. Naveen hasrendered committed service tothe people of the state and created a people-orientedgovernment. He is increasingly recognized as the most popularpolitician.Legacy: The leadershipqualities of Naveen arephenomenal. There is somethingmagical about his popularity andcharisma. He has broken records,is widely loved, and is the trueheir to Biju Patnaik. Biju’s legacy
continues to shine, proving thelegendary leader’s impact andreach.The enduring legacy of Bijumay make other ‘first families’bristle with anger. But that’s howpolitics in Odisha has cast itselfover the past two decades. BijuPatnaik, Naveen’s father was afierce critic of the center. He oncethreatened to secede if his state’sinterests were not safeguarded.The Naveen government was alsoof the opinion that the ignominyof a backward state should end.
Odisha should be put on the fasttrack to development and regainits dignity. During this period, anumber of new growth initiativeswere announced, along withadministrative reforms.What makes Naveen uniqueand exceptional among mostregional satraps? What makeshim one of India’s mostsuccessful administrators? Theanswer is not difficult to find.The Biju heritage, the TINAfactor, a supportive and elitegovernment, the leader’s clean
image, as well as his upper-class,cultured, and well-mannereddisposition have contributed tothe leader’s success.Acumen: When NaveenPatnaik received the ‘BestAdministrator’ award from’Outlook’ magazine in 2017, his admirers and detractors alikewere thrilled. It was an undeniableachievement, and the generalopinion was that the leader couldstay as long as he liked. Naveenhas shown remarkable selfconfidence,led Odisha out of
the ‘poorest’ category of Indiamanaged disasters effectively,won people’s hearts withpeople-oriented policies, made
Odisha investment-friendly,developed women-friendlypolicies, and fought corruption.In the face of criticism about
his government’s failures andslip-ups, Naveen Patnaik hasnot reacted aggressively to theaccusations against him. He
refuses to be provoked bypolitical controversies anddisclaims to get caught up inpolitical controversies. In the
public eye, Naveen’s restrainthas solidified his image as arefined politician, which hasmade him a popular choice timeand again. This has given himthe confidence to continuegoverning Odisha.

About Post Author