Bhaskar Parichha


Even as Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had recently fuelled speculations of a succession plan by saying that the Biju Janata Dal is not dependent on him for its survival and growth, the BJD has become an enviable force today. The party celebrated its 23rd Foundation Day on Thursday. The day also coincided with Naveen remaining in the helm for twenty long years without interruption.

Sixth among the longest serving chief ministers of independent India,Naveen’s tryst with Odisha is irreversible. Who will don the mantle of the BJD after 2024 is largely a matter of conjecture, but there is no denying the fact that what began as a small journey by a reluctant politician has grown into a gigantic expedition. Under his leadership, the BJD has got stronger over the years. Naveen has continuously bucked the anti-incumbency factor in every election. In retrospect, when Naveen Patnaik took over for the first time, the state was going through difficult times.

Taking over the reins in the aftermath of the super cyclone that killed over 10,000 people, today Odisha is known for efficient handling of natural disasters, receiving accolades from national and international organizations. If putting the economy and the polity back on the track was his priority, Naveen has been largely successful. His government has become a model for other states.

Whether it is the quantum leap in agricultural production or the state attracting huge investments, Naveen’s government has shown the way to others. As far as governance and development are concerned, Odisha had sharpest fall in poverty during the regime and it is now a high growth state. From Re 1 per kg rice for poor to Rs 5 per meal  in ‘Aahar’ food canteens in towns  to various other welfare schemes—including free medicines and recently announced free dialysis—Odisha  has expanded its welfare programmes to cater to all sections besides giving  thrust to infrastructure and industrial development.

NaveenAs Naveen completes two decades in power, the focus is now on transparency and empowerment of the most backward sections of society with big-ticket policy initiative. Having taken charge of a state lagging behind in most departments, Naveen wants to set an example of governance. His government is putting its weight behind two initiatives – Mo Sarkar and the Five Ts principle – teamwork, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit.

A total of 27 departments are now under the ambit of the “Mo Sarkar” initiative of the Odisha government. In a major development, the government recently got the Odisha State Commission for Backward Classes (amendment) Bill 2020 unanimously to empower the backward classes.”There’s a long way to go. I am grateful to the people of Odisha for having elected us to office for the last 20 years and we’ve achieved a great deal. But there’s still a long way to go for Odisha to be totally empowered,” is what Naveen believes as he continues his voyage. And that is not without reason.