Fight Pandemic, Strengthening BJD

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Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik is a master strategist. He has so far campaigned efficiently to prevent community infection in the state as far as the war against corona virus is concerned. At the same time he has kept his party organization fighting fit, making changes and assigning new responsibilities to leaders.

Even as his government battles the COVID-19 pandemic chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has been paying special attention to the strengthening of his party organization. He has focused on putting important leaders in key positions and also assigning them specific responsibilities.

This is obviously being done because he wants Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to be always battle-ready. A shewed leader he is keen to keep his organization fighting fit and wants his party leaders to keep in touch with people always. He knows this connect with the people pays dividends at the time of elections. The voters of Odisha who had become used to MLAs and MPs behaving like absentee landlords now have a different kind of experience as far as BJD’s elected representatives are concerned.

As the president of BJD, the regional party with a great electoral record, Patnaik has made it a point to keep track of activities of his leaders, especially MLAs and MPs who often make promises to people only to forget them after election. The chief minister wants them to keep their word. Accountability has always been important for Patnaik who lays equal emphasis on monitoring the performance of MPs and MLAs who cannot but perform.

Thus, much before elections arrive the chief minister has files ready on every MLA and MP and has a fair idea of what a particular leader has been doing in his or her constituency. That makes the task of ticket distribution easy and ensures that only performers get tickets. He has been changing candidates frequently but his candidates almost always do well.

Patnaik is particular about the responsibilities that he assigns to his leaders. Leaders holding key organizational posts remain accountable to him in the same way as his ministers. Recently he has assigned specific responsibilities to some vice-presidents and general secretaries of BJD.

A hands-on boss Patnaik now runs the BJD with surprising ease and efficiency and while keeping intra-party democracy thriving has ensured that the line of command in the BJD remains clear. It is great that he manages the dual task of running the government and the party with such efficiency.

The top BJD functionaries are always handpicked by Patnaik. Take for example former minister, Pranab Prakash Das who has been serving the chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with the same kind of loyalty and devotion that his father had displayed towards late Biju Patnaik. Son of former state Janata Dal president, Ashok Das this young leader has been 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 sometime ago appointed general secretary ( organisation) of the regional party. The post is said to have 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 had told media persons. The appointment practically makes Das the second in command in BJD, the most successful regional party in the history of the state.

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 leader 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 was 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. 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.

But Das’s real worth for Patnaik is his organizational abilities. The chief minister has also been putting his faith in another leader, Sanjay Das Burma, vice-chairman of state planning board.  Both Das and Das Burma have also been playing an active role in the planning and execution of government’s COVID-19 management plans and now their role is going to become all the more important as the cash-strapped government has decided to go for market borrowing to meet the expenditure arising out the unprecedented situation created by the pandemic.

Sources said that Odisha had to take this decision because it was not getting enough funds from central schemes and its own revenue generation had gone down. As per rules the government is allowed to go for market borrowing to the tune of 3 per cent of the total budget. But this time because of the extraordinary situation, the Centre has allowed the state to take a loan up to 3.05 per cent.

When crises like these afflict the government it needs all kinds of resources, the most important one being the human resource. Here is where the party organization comes into play. Patnaik knows how to make best possible use of it.

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