Another Son Rises

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The elevation of Pranab Prakash Das to the post of Biju Janata Dal’s organisational secretary signals a change in the party’s power equations. For the first time the party has a number 2 formally. The elevation also reflects chief minister’s faith in the young leader and his abilities. The general consensus is that the party will emerge stronger following the move.

He is serving chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo, Naveen Patnaik with the same kind of loyalty and devotion that his father had displayed towards late Biju Patnaik. Pranab Prakash Das, son of former state Janata Dal president and staunch Biju loyalist, Ashok Das, a legend in his own right, has been rightly rewarded for his hard work and the sacrifices that he has made for Biju Janata Dal.The three time MLA from Jajpur, who stepped down as energy minister and opted for organisational work during the reshuffle effected by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik in 2017  when many others in the party were seeking ministerial berths, was recently appointed general secretary ( organisation) of the regional party. Sources said that the post has been created for the first time and the significance of the move is evident from the fact that chief minister, Naveen Patnaik himself made the announcement on the occasion of 104th birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik.

“He has worked very hard in the 2014 and 2019 elections besides the by-elections in the State during the period. He will oversee the overall work of the organisation,” the chief minister told mediapersons. The appointment practically makes Das, a livewire with a huge following among the youth, the second in command in BJD, the most successful regional party in the history of the state.

Das, who is seen as BJD’s rising star, expressed his gratitude to the chief minister on his appointment. “Grateful to Hon’ble Party President Shri @Naveen_Odisha for entrusting me with this responsibility & placing faith in me. Commit myself towards strengthening the Party at grasroots and working for uplifting our state and its people. #JaiJagannath @bjd_odisha”, he tweeted.

Das’s rise in the party has been phenomenal with chief minister recognising his hard work and willingness to make sacrifices for BJD. While the young leader has himself won the Jajpur assembly seat consistently for three terms since 2009 he has been working tirelessly to strengthen BJD’s base throughout the state. He has also played a major role in party’s victory in crucial bye-elections including the 2019 Patkura by-poll.

This 47-year-old son of late Janata Dal leader Ashok Das, a close associate of Biju Patnaik, is part of BJD’s elite group that chalks out the party strategy and also implements it at the ground level. His appointment as general secretary (Organisation) is also an acknowledgement of his immense contribution to Naveen Patnaik’s incumbency defying run as chief minister. Patnaik is holding the reins of power for the fifth successive time, a rare distinction which only two other leaders in the country have enjoyed in the past.

Das had been Patnaik’s energy minister from 2014 until a mid-term 2017 reshuffle when he volunteered to work for the party. He could have been a minister after 2019 elections but he preferred organisational work.

During his tenure as state’s energy minister Das did some commendable work and ensured that Odisha remains self- sufficient as far as its power needs are concerned. Towards this end he kept working tirelessly and when required he also met the then Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy,  Piyush Goyal, in New Delhi.

On another occasion Das as energy minister had asked the Union Government to allocate more funds for electrification in rural as well as urban areas of the state. He had made this demand while attending a conference of power ministers of states and union territories.

As a minister Das was always attentive to the needs of common people. For example, considering the problems faced by people, especially students he had once assured that there would be no power cuts in the state during the summer season.

Keenly aware that power was one of the most important needs of the masses, especially the rural masses he had once firmly announced that the state government aimed to connect every household to a power line. At that point of time Odisha was generating 5,688 MW of power from different sources, according to the Grid Corporation of Odisha and was able to meet the demands of consumers.

Das was also keen to take Odisha forward in the field of generating renewable energy or environment-friendly energy. The state government had then set itself a target of producing 300-500 MW of solar energy by 2019-20 but had also kept an eye on the Centre’s estimate according to which Odisha had scope to produce about 2,500 MW of solar energy.

Das had talked about setting up roof-top solar panels to generate natural energy from the sun. Under him the government had also planned to provide grid connectivity to those willing to generate roof-top solar energy as per the guidelines of the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC).

A tireless worker and an excellent organiser, Das has always taken good care of his constituency which is why the people of Jajpur have been returning him to the state assembly consistently since 2009. In 2018 when Jajpur municipality celebrated its 150 years and the district marked the 25th year of its existence the town saw celebrations on a grand scale. It was an event that people still remember and credit Das with its successful organisation.

The occasion had also been marked by some major developmental initiatives like the inauguration of the renovated Kusuma pokhari (pond) at the district headquarters town by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik who was accompanied by Das and some other BJD leaders. The chief minister then went to the mini stadium in Jajpur to inaugurate a host of projects.

The launched projects included the newly constructed building for Mother and Child Health at the district headquarters hospital, Central School building and a memory pillar of the 150th anniversary of the Municipality. Naveen also laid the foundation stone of a bus terminal in the town.

Political observers opine that Das has been successful in politics primarily because of his hard work and dedication to the party. “His loyalty to chief minister, Naveen Patnaik cannot be questioned. He keeps a low profile and believes in doing his work silently. These are qualities which have endeared him to the party boss,” said an observer.

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