Patnaik: After a decade in office

However, the ride for the three-time chief minister — who also heads the ruling regional Biju Janata Dal (BJD) — may not be as easy in the coming days because the opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP, have already started cornering him on various issues which he and his administration have miserably failed to handle.

Patnaik completed a decade in office early this month. This was a major achievement as never before in the history of the state, a chief minister had a consecutive 10-year run. Congress leader J B Patnaik, now governor of Assam, was chief minister for nine years — from 1980 and 1989.

Within a couple of years of the formation of BJD, of which he was the founder president, Naveen Patnaik — who was initially considered as a political novice because of his late entry (he stepped into politics only after the death of his father the late Biju Patnaik) — had begun to isolate many senior leaders of the party who could be possible threat to his leadership.

Handling threat
By the middle of his first tenure as chief minister, he had successfully ousted leaders like Bijoy Mohapatra, Ramakrishna Patnaik and Nalini Mohanty who were not only his late father’s colleagues in the undivided Janata Dal but were having enough political experience to emerge as a threat to him if allowed to stay in the BJD.

Mohapatra and Ramakrishna Patnaik were founder members of the BJD and had played a key role in making Naveen Patnaik the first president of the regional party. Mohanty was the working president of the party as well as a cabinet minister, when he was sacked from both the posts.

Apart from shrewd political moves, a few other steps in favour of the poor helped Patnaik in enhancing his popularity among voters. According to many, despite corruption at its implementation level, the rice scheme had played a key role in Patnaik and BJD’s record breaking victories in the last year’s Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state.
However, since the last year’s polls, the weaknesses of the Patnaik administration have already started surfacing much to the embarrassment of the chief minister. Take for example the government’s performance on the law and order front. Not only the naxal activities but the overall law and order situation in the state have been worsening by the day. “The common people are no more feeling safe in the state”, said Prasad Harichandan, the chief whip of the Congress legislative party in the state Assembly who is also a former home minister of the state.

The ‘corruption free’ image of Patnaik, which was considered as a major asset of the chief minister, has also taken a massive hit following the recently unearthed mining scam in the state. The opposition parties have already charged him as well as many of his ministerial colleagues of playing a role in the multi-crore scam. While the state government has ordered a vigilance inquiry into the scam, the opposition parties have been insisting that it should be handed over the CBI for a proper and independent probe.

The scam has all the potentials to become a major headache for Patnaik and his regional outfit in the coming days. In fact, it has already become an acid test for the BJD government in the state.

A few other developments like the sudden rise in the cases of suicide by farmers in the state is all set to create further problems for the Patnaik administration in the coming days. And therefore, it is widely believed that the next four years’ journey till the next Assembly polls in 2014 may not be an easy one for the BJD chief and his party compared to the last 10 years.

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