‘Un­der­es­ti­mated’ Naveen Shows the Way With leads in 20 Lok Sabha & 112 as­sem­bly seats, BJD’s chief Pat­naik has proved him­self rock solid once again

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - MEERA MO­HANTY

“The great­est mis­take people make is to un­der­es­ti­mate Naveen Pat­naik,” says a closec­on­fi­dan­teof Odisha’schief min­is­ter,whois­re­turn­ing­topow­er­forafourth term, stronger than ever. Pat­naik’s Biju Janata Dal was leading in 20 of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha con­stituen­cies and 112 of 147 as­sem­bly seats. “I am obliged to the people of Odisha for their man­date, and par­tic­u­larly grate­ful­ly­tothe­many­moth­er­swho­had­voted for the BJD,” a pleased Pat­naik, in­ter­rupted by cel­e­bra­tory fire­works, told the me­dia out­side his house. “The vic­tory is not a vic­tory of the BJD, but of the four crore Odiya people who were work­ing for the swab­hi­man (sel­f­re­spect) of Odisha.” The man­date has sur­prised crit­ics and op­po­nents who had ex­pected a wave in favour of BJP’s prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date Naren­dra Modi, anti-in­cum­bency and dis­sent within the party to erode Pat­naik’s share of votes. The win should, once and for all, set to rest the per­cep­tion that the 67-year-old, de­spite three terms in power, is a re­luc­tant chief min­is­ter or po­lit­i­cal novice. “NaveenPat­naik­isas­olid,hon­est leader with no con­tro­ver­sies, no scan­dal, of­fer­ing safe as­sured lead­er­ship,” said Swa­pan Das­gupta, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and a friend of Pat­naik. “What else do vot­ers want?” Ac­cord­ing to close as­so­ciates of the chief min­is­ter, this is a per­sonal vin­di­ca­tion of his po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. When the provin­cial party had bro­ken with the BJP and won a com­fort­able vic­tory for it­self last time, credit had gone to Pat­naik’s then aide, and now foe, Pya­ri­mo­han Ma­ha­p­a­tra. The BJD strat­egy was to rely on the gover nment’s gen­er­ous sub­sidy pro­grammes, and the chief min­is­ter’s own im­age of an hon­est politi­cian. Soumya Ran­jan Pat­naik, who quit the Congress to form a brand new en­tity, Ama Odisha, blamed the op­po­si­tion for fail­ure to take ad­van­tage of cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions against the govern­ment. “If the BJD makes a clear sweep, it’s a dis­grace for the BJP and Congress,” he said. BJP, which had claimed it would clinch seven Lok Sabha seats, was leading in one by evening. “There was a Modi wave, but since Odisha went to polls last month, we could not make the most of it. The fact that this was also a si­mul­ta­ne­ous elec­tion (to as­sem­bly), re­sulted in a con­fu­sion of bal­lots,” said hote­lier-politi­cian Dilip Ray of the BJP. State Congress party chief Jayadev Jena said, “We re­spect the man­date of the people. And, as chief as Odisha PCC, I take the re­spon­si­bil­ity for our per­for­mance.” Pat­naik’s rep­u­ta­tion as an hon­est politi­cian has shielded the party from a re­cent con­tro­ver­sies of chit fund graft and wide­spread il­le­gal­i­ties in the min­ing sec­tor raised by the op­po­si­tion.

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