By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, December 28, 2017: Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik stunned the world while addressing the party cadres on the 20th anniversary celebrations in Jagannath Puri on 26 December. He just did not utter one political thing. He spoke as a statesman rising above party ideologies of any kind. The Odia speech was perfectly apolitical in texture, colour, content and form.

He stressed two ingredients of human behaviour that endear one to masses- simplicity in living and humility in public conduct. “Serve the poor with utmost humility”, he went on harping, “That will play magic in the minds of the masses. Their respect for public servants will soar and they will want to have officials back in service again and again. All that he said was about behaviour change. He has not changed his original trademark ‘Kurta-Pyajama and chappal’ dress code once in public view, despite having been a celebrity himself on numerous counts.

He has been the preferred local companion to Jacqueline Kennedy, the Beatles and more dignitaries from abroad for decades only because of his understanding of cultures and deep knowledge in human behaviour. Hardly people of Odisha know that his three books published by international houses have been best sellers because of extreme readability and quality of content.

‘The Desert Kingdom’, ‘The Second Paradise’ and ‘The Garden of Life’are great works of art as well. Naveen is also a great painter with skills to overshadow many known ones stealing money and name disproportionatelywithout being a match to him.

More than all this, Naveen is least known as a patriot on a least-noticed front. He has invariably used a car specifically made by an Indian company. He hasn’t changed his Maruti-Suzuki vehicle once, when foolish uneducated party leaders have sported Pajero and got into trouble.

Similarly the ones that have brazenly flaunted wealth disproportionate to known sourced of income have attracted public hatred without fail. Even those politicians who have fed thousands of guests at family weddings have caused immense public ire and irritation. Further, people have kept track of those lowly leaders whose wealth has swollen after being in power politics.

More so, the devilish ones whose children have made fortunes without much input, are also under close public scanner today. Naveen has sent the signal in time that no arrogant fellow with visible ill-gotten wealth shall have a peaceful time from now on.

Not surprisingly, the cool guy that he is to criticism, Naveen made no mention of any political worry. He made no remark of political opponents or made any reference to electoral battles and the gravely unacceptable blemishes of the opposition party leaders. He only told such things as would restore order to own house.

It is known widely that, despite BJP’s best efforts, it could make any dent in the recently concluded civic elections, barring a few sporadic insignificant victory to the saffron party. These local results do not of course indicate the trend of the general elections, as marked in history over a long period of time. The mass mood does swing differently when the fierce battle to choose big law makers are fought.

A critical observation must be shared here: BJD indeed was created by capitalising the Biju legacy in 1997. But by 2009, during the massive second victory, the young new voters had become highly enamoured by Naveen Patnaik and so voted for him. Biju Patnaik had virtually become a mere name only without much sentimental value to them. They had convinced themselves that Naveen is a saviour par excellence and he demolishes all evil forces in the political arena without mercy.

Further, he is a single person without any desire for amassing wealth to leave behind for any one. The parental house and the saving in the late illustrious father’s account are enough for him to lead a dignified and peaceful life. Some detractors claim that Naveen is indifferent to what’s happening to the state. He doesn’t give a damn to the people of Odisha.

These allegations have put countless researchers on the job of trying to figure him out. The findings are all out: Naveen is keen that Odisha is soon declared less poor than many of the so called advanced states like Gujarat which is projected as a supermodel for top grade development under the BJP. What’s intriguing now is the fact that Odisha figures better as reported by the Central scrutiny agencies. As per the Human Development Index, Odisha scores much better than Gujarat on critical domains of poverty alleviation, child mortality reduction and many other ‘quality of life’ issues.

While the Congress has been on the downslide for several years, the verdict was particularly galling for the Bharatiya Janata Party which has been making concerted efforts to dent Naveen Patnaik’s popularity and emerge as the alternate political force in Odisha, though with little success. The BJP had first hoped to capture Odisha in 2014 when the ‘Modi wave’ swept the country. Instead, it received a rude shock when the Modi juggernaut was effectively halted by Naveen Patnaik.

The BJP was again disappointed when it failed to dislodge Naveen Patnaik from the numero uno position in the last civic polls, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a ‘special day trip’ to the state before the elections. Odisha, as it turned out, remained unimpressed with Modi. The BJD won absolute majority in all eight municipal bodies, while the BJP just about registered a blip on the electoral map.

Scandals of multiple varieties have emerged on the state. But Naveen remains absolutely untainted by any.Ever since the BJP made gains here and there, its energetic and canny president Amit Shah has been strategising like mad to enter Odisha. But the east coastal state remains an uncharted territory for the saffron outfit even today.

No wonder, great media and public scrutiny agencies have crowned Naveen the enigmatic master among all political administrators. He is the most highly rated Indian chief minister of times. The Marxists lasted long in West Bengal but with hiccups and diminishing popularity. The Southern states with their dominant regional parties have voted for this outfit once and that for the next. Even the RJD, SP, BSP of the north and the Shivsena in the west have failed to remain strong after one term. They keep coming and going like political nomads.

Often described as a “cowbelt party”, the BJP is keen to shrug off this tag and become a pan-Indian party. It has just confounded Assam. But West Bengal is proving to be difficult and Odisha impossible.It has not been able to shake off the four-term chief minister’s vice-like grip over Odisha even though it was able to grab a 27% vote share in last general election.

The enigmatic Naveen Patnaik’s uninterrupted winning streak in defiance of anti-incumbency has baffled his opponents. No scam or scandal directly involving his government has emerged over the years. Naveen Patnaik’s personal credibility has become even shinier than before. His appeal and charisma, both among the rural poor and the growing middle class, have remained unshakeable.

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