An Icon With An Ever Growing Appeal


Chief minister, Naveen Patnaik continues to be highly popular among the people of the state and even outside the state despite attacks on him by opposition leaders. The Opposition has sought to tarnish his image in various ways but he remains Teflon-coated. His popularity is the biggest asset of his party which continues to score high in elections.

Despite opposition attack on his government on so many issues chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has lost none of his popularity. In fact, his popularity rating has gone up and in a recent survey he has been chosen as the most popular chief minister of the country.

There are reasons why he continues to be so high in public esteem. One of the most important factors is his belief in walking the talk. For example, as promised he and his ministers have submitted their property details that have been put in the public domain. Other elected representatives of the party are expected to follow suit. Addressing Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) state executive council meeting over two weeks ago Patnaik, who also happens to be the president of the party, had announced that property lists of ministers, party MLAs, MPs, chairpersons of panchayat samitis, zilla parishad presidents and sarpanches will be put in the public domain to ensure transparency.

These details are now available for public scrutiny and will also be forwarded to the Lok Ayukta, state’s anti-corruption ombudsman. Government officials right from entry level to the rank of chief secretary have also been asked to make their property details public. Odisha has become the first state in the country to take such a step which sets a new benchmark in the fight against corruption.

Opposition parties have described the move as a publicity stunt aimed at garnering votes but they scarcely realize the magnitude of the impact that such gestures make on the public mind. Even if one chooses to call the exercise symbolic there is no denying its salutary impact on the minds of people, especially the younger generation. The step, as a former chief secretary of the state rightly pointed out, will convince people that the chief minister practices what he preaches.

Patnaik has been particularly severe in dealing with cases of corruption in his fifth innings as the chief minister of the state. There have been Vigilance raids against the high and mighty found indulging in corruption and some venal government officials have also been given compulsory retirement. Last month a sitting MLA and former minister was arrested in a corruption case. His arrest followed similar action against a senior forest official who was considered close to him and had faced Vigilance raids in connection with a disproportionate assets case.

In his latest avatar the five-time chief minister has been laying particular emphasis on transparency which is a key feature of his 5T governance formula. The Mo Sarkar initiative launched by Patnaik has been immensely successful in eliminating corruption and increasing the efficiency of officials while bringing the administration closer to the people.

He has also been taking many pro-people steps. Recently he did something very important for the welfare of students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds like the ones studying in government-run schools. He sought to create a level playing field for these students by deciding to reserve seats for them in medical and engineering colleges.

The chief minister has now made another magnanimous gesture towards the students of government schools by announcing complete waiver of fees for the matriculation examination to be conducted by the Board of Secondary Education this year. The decision, apparently taken in view of the financial distress caused to the people by the corona pandemic, will benefit more than six lakh students.   The government will have to bear a financial burden of Rs.27 crore on this account but the chief minister’s prime concern is that no student should be deprived of the opportunity to appear for this crucial examination of his career.

With matriculation exams set to commence from May 3 the chief minister has also ensured that students attend classes and get their doubts cleared by teachers so that they are well prepared for the test. The move has been hailed by students as well as parents. Poor students and parents are in particular grateful to Patnaik for his government’s generosity as the decision to waive the exam fee will prove to be a boon for a majority of them in these troubled times.

Patnaik had showed a similar concern for students appearing for JEE (Main) and NEET exams last year. As the Centre decided to conduct the exams in the midst of the pandemic the chief minister instructed all district administrations to make arrangements for free travel and stay of students taking these tests. He even involved his party functionaries in facilitating the travel and stay of these students, many of whom came from remote areas.

On the eve of these tests he had a video-aided interaction with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislators who were not only asked to help students reach their exam centres in different parts of the state but also reach out to people battling COVID-19 and offer them necessary assistance.

Patnaik also has a major contribution in making stories of hunger and starvation deaths emanating from Kalahandi a thing of past. The tribal-dominated district is today a model of prosperity that entire state can be proud of. On Thursday chief minister, Naveen Patnaik waxed eloquent about the transformation of Kalahandi as he addressed his first public meeting in the district since the outbreak of the corona pandemic and inaugurated a slew of projects including the Rs.986 crore Indravati lift irrigation project. The project will facilitate irrigation in 25,275 hectares of land in three blocks of the district.

As the chief minister rightly pointed out Kalahandi was no more the infamous laboratory to study poverty, it has instead turned into a region of prosperity with its farmers producing some of the best paddy in the state. The Indravati project is set to boost agriculture in the district which has become an example for the rest of the state.

The amazing transformation of Kalahandi is one of the biggest success stories of Naveen Patnaik government. It has set a new benchmark in the field of development. Once counted among the most backward districts of the state Kalahandi has made big strides not only in the field of agriculture but also industries. The district is home to the largest alumina refinery in the state in the private sector.