Things are not really easy for chief minister, Naveen Patnaik at the moment. He seems to be dealing with several problems and controversies at one time. Dissidence has once again raised its head in the ruling party and tackling it will be a major challenge for the chief minister who is gearing up his party for the next polls.
These are difficult times for chief minister and ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president, Naveen Patnaik with dissidence rearing its head in the party for the first time in a long time. It all started with Kendrapara MP, Baijayant Panda pointing accusing fingers at a bureaucrat in the chief minister’s office (CMO).
The issue snowballed into a major controversy soon with some other leaders also lambasting the same bureaucrat on different pretexts. Rattled the chief minister summoned former Rajya Sabha member, Baisnab Parida and former BJD MLA Nabin Nanda from Gondia, at the state secretariat.Later Parida said he had discussed with the chief minister about the non-implementation of Odisla Official Language Act and the non-establishment of Language Commission to monitor the enforcement of Odia in official work. Earlier Parida had aired his resentment over the issue and said that the law was not being enforced properly due to the bureaucratic apathy.
He had said that the bureaucrat concerned was both powerful and experienced and had he been sincere, the Official Language Act would have been made effective long back. Parida leads the movement for enforcement of Odia as official language.
The buzz in the political circles is that Parida has turned a rebel as he did not get re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Similarly, Nanda had alleged that the party was not functioning properly. “There is some problem somewhere in the party. The chief minister remains in dark on many issues,” he had said. His statement was considered important despite attempts in certain quarters of the BJD to play it down. Nanda following his meeting with the chief minister said he had told him that the party was not functioning properly.
Asked whether he was assured of a party ticket in the next assembly election, Nanda said that hardly mattered as he would contest the next election anyway. He would contest as an independent if the party fails to give him a ticket.
Meanwhile the chief minister has been taking a lot of initiatives to keep his popularity intact. In another attempt to strike a chord with children, he recently attended a children’s festival which saw more than 50,000 students congregate and recite “ Bande Utkala Janani”, the state’s anthem written by Kantakabi Laxmikanta Mohapatra.
The children’s festival was organized by Bharatiya Shiksha Vikash Sansthan at Baramunda Ground. Though chief minister does not approve of most of the policies of BJP he rushed to attend the programme organized by the Sansthan, an organisiation supported by the saffron party. He considered it important as he wanted to connect with the children.
Naveen talked freely with the students and allowed them to come to the dais and take pictures with them. During his address to the students, Naveen urged them to be good human beings and try to be successful in their life. He also urged them to uphold the glory of the state and asked them to work for the development of the country and state.
Earlier on November 14th, Naveen had interacted with the children on the children’s Day. The programme was televised and watched by over 40 lakh school students across the state.
Students were allowed to sit near Naveen and talked to him freely and he announced Mukhyamanrti Medhabruti (Chief Minister’s meritorious scholarship) scheme to encourage students to perform well in the matriculation examination. Under the scheme, 40, 000 students will be given Rs 5,000 in cash each for scoring good marks in class X examination.
Apart from several ministers and senior BJD leaders, nearly 2. 88 lakh students studying in 1037 schools run by Bharatiya Shiksha Vikash Sansthan attended the programme that had distinct political undertones.
On the other hand, in order to extract maximum political mileage, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is organising a function on January 27 to release a pictorial biography of Biju Patnaik. The event will be attended by who’s who of Indian politics cutting across party lines. The event is being seen in the context of BJD being way about the rising popularity graph of BJP.
Former President Pranab Mukherjee will release the book. A senior BJD leader said, “besides Mukherjee, the meeting will be attended by leaders cutting across party lines including former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, senior BJP leader and former deputy Prime minister LK Advani, and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.”
Advani is the only surviving cabinet colleague of Biju Patnaik from the Janata Party government of 1977; who is active in politics. The other two leaders of Biju era Atal Bihari Vajpayee and George Fernandes are keeping away from public life because of their ill health. The book has been written by Sudarshan Ganeshan.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has personally talked to these leaders. “Senior BJD leaders have already met them and obtained their consent,” said a senior BJD leader.
The pictorial biography contains rare photographs of Biju Babu including his cycling to Peshawar, coming to state secretariat on a bicycle and his love for flying. Sources said the party is keen to highlight the Biju legancy. “The event will prove how Naveen has emerged as a strong son of Biju Babu and strived hard to make Biju Babu’s dream to make Odisha a prosperous state turn into a reality,” said another leader.
It will also be a kind of show of strength by the BJD ahead of the next elections. The party has been winning elections keeping the Biju legacy in the foreground. The BJD leaders, however, have spoken against the event being given a political colour. “It is more about late Biju Patnaik who was a stalwart and became a legend in his life time. It should be seen in that context,” said a party leader. People, however, are unlikely to accept this logic.