Naveen Patnaik: the undisputed king of Kalinga
Patnaik is one politician who has neither been defeated nor has he ever been in the opposition in his entire career.
He was dubbed as an outsider who did not even know the local language, but Naveen Patnaik proved all critics wrong. On Wednesday, he was sworn in as Chief Minister of Odisha for the fifth consecutive term—a feat next only to former Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and matching former Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling.
Analysts call him a “shrewd” political mind and credit his longevity to a mix of his right timing and lack of a strong opposition in the state.
Naveen Patnaik, 72, son of former state CM and iconic Odisha leader Biju Patnaik, is known to have delivered his maiden political speech in Odisha in Hindi. His characteristic interaction with his cadre and mass rallies are limited to just a few minutes of speech. For someone brought up in Delhi—and who landed a cameo role in a Hollywood film in his youth—the fact that he is unchallenged till now is enough to silence his critics.
“He is undoubtedly the king of Kalinga. It is interesting to note that everyone who split away from him has got sidelined in politics and Naveen Patnaik has survived all storms,” said senior journalist Ruben Banerjee, who is also his biographer.
He is one politician who has never been defeated and has never sat in the opposition in his career, he added.
When he came to power in the year 2000 after his father's death, he was in news for denying Biju Patnaik’s trusted lieutenants plum positions in the party. Over time, he distanced himself from his own trusted men too.
“He will be known in history as a politician whose detractors one after the other had drifted apart from him but became insignificant and irrelevant. He has gained strength year after year, irrespective of his changing team,” says political analyst N Sathiya Moorthy.
We must also understand that he was at the right place at the right time. He came to the scene in Odisha politics when politicians in the state were unpopular and being an outsider worked to his advantage in the eyes of the people, he adds.
Wednesday's oath ceremony, which was held in full public view unlike the ones in the past that were held inside the Bhubaneshwar Raj Bhavan, is being seen by analysts as his last oath to office. Naveen Patnaik took to twitter to share his memories of the last 19 years as Odisha Chief Minister in a post just after his swearing-in.
It’s a nostalgic personal journey for me to reminisce the past 19 years. Today while I take oath of office for the 5th term, I humbly accept the responsibility that comes with the faith my 4.5 crore family members have reposed on me, yet again. pic.twitter.com/wU8gxGbiCl— Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) May 29, 2019
Around 7,000 guests were part of the ceremony. Patnaik’s party Biju Janata Dal won 112 out of 147 seats in the assembly.
"Time will soon change in Odisha politics. The BJP seemed not too resolute about its plan till now but with Narendra Modi now convincingly saddled in Delhi, things could change. Probably, this could be the last opportunity for Patnaik," Moorthy adds.