By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, May 12, 2018: Baijayant Panda has turned very sore. Once upon a time, for Biju Patnaik, he was the blue-eyed darling of the Biju family. Baijayant’s father was an extremely lucky engineer whose entrepreneurial venture at Therubali in Raygada district turned out to be a gold mine.

For decades, the IMFA group of industries churned out a globally monopoly product called ‘silicon metal’ to turn the Panda family stinking rich. Baijayant, as the elder son was born with silver, gold and platinum spoons in the mouth. The Panda empire later bought off the the principal IMFA patron Biju Patnaik’s flagship company Kaling Tubes in Choudwar for a song. Biju Babu, the compulsive political adventurer was then in great financial distress and, to keep his political outfits and followers going, he sold off many of his prized assets across the country.

Baijayant set up a chargechrome plant at Choudwar in collaboration with a Scandinavian major. Huge tracts of precious Chromite mines were given away to the IMFA group. But by the time the chargechrome adventure came up, the business world had crashed economically and the demand for chargechrome had slumped like never before.

The Pandas lost heavily and there was rumour of the plant closing down for good. Suddenly, around this time, some fertile brains in China and elsewhere craved for iron and chrome ores for some goddamn reason and all the long-suffering mine owners, not even able to pay staff due to want of income, became billionaires overnight. Iron ore was scraped off every mine area and for nearly a decade between 1999 and 2010 the only business domain that reaped jackpot earning was in the mines and minerals raising and trading sector.

Even today, the mining boom gone, ‘chromite’ keeps yielding astoundingly huge profits for Baijayant without much input or investment. Whether or not the chargechrome factory runs to add value to the ore, Baijayant remains filthy rich. By a thumbrule estimate, the current Panda may be taking home a cool five hundred million rupees every month. How he handles his income and other taxes is best known to some of the core-corrupt tax officials. His father had worked hard to make things happen; but Baijayant got heavens heaping billions without effort. All divine lottery!

Baijayant, joined politics obviously to keep his units live and safe like many industrialists do. He also did so well by remaining close to the enigmatic Naveen. The entire BJD outfit too was in awe of the younger Panda. The big reason was that Baijayant’s intelligent wife Jaggi Mangat had become immensely successful as a media entrepreneur. By the time Naveen appeared on the scene, Jaggi was already a media baroness. Her Ortel communications had become a force to reckon with for the popular Otv news channel and the Skyview cable network which, with the help of several state agencies, had emerged as the leader in the media domain.

All was well, until recently, a few of the political creatures did not feel comfortable with the disciplined ways of Naveen’s running the administration. Knowing too well that the populist politicians, whose number is sizeable, could ruin the party if given free hand in everything that is to do with development and progress, the iconic chief minister chose a few skilled bureaucrats who were, honest, loyal and understood statecraft well. Naveen, after a prolonged exercise of scrutiny, zeroed in on a rather young administrator, who was not born in Odisha but is a ‘son-in-law of the soil’ for having married the first Odisha cadre Odia woman IAS officer Sujata Rout, now Sujata ‘Karthikeyan’.

Naveen outwardly is a casual person but truly he is very non-negotiable about the traits of integrity and usable skills in his officials and political colleagues. As not known to many, he is a master ‘mind reader’. Only because he leads a very simple life style, people imagine he is just not bothered about any serious matter relating to the state and he cares a damn about the sentiments of Odias and their culture including the great Odia language.

As any serious politician with a clear vision of a developed and happy Odisha, he too has strong conviction about what governance approach can yield the desired results and what will badly fail. All political classes know well that their limited knowledge of the Constitutional spirit, basic and bare laws, people-friendly rules can land them in big trouble. So when framing policies and rules, they wholly depend upon the sharp, clever bureaucrats that have come through rigorous tests and exposures. Naveen is a maverick politician who, as the chief executive of the state thinks and dreams out of the box. Naturally, therefore he has meticulously traces and picked a very few public officials who can place best choices and options before him for taking critical decisions.

Naveen chose Karthikeyan solely because he is a patient listener, and too willing to learn by experimenting new ideas and schemes with a view to learning more, particularly from mistakes. Naveen marked Karthikeyan because of his superb energy and resilience levels and above all grasping powers. Apart from all this, they both clicked well with each other and the rest is history. Karthikeyan took complete charge of problem-solving domain. He proved that his ways of ironing snags and bringing warring factions together within the fold are commendable. Naveen made no bones about it. He transmitted a clear message across the ranks and the files of the executive and the administrative wings that Karthikeyan be consulted on all contentious issues and be guided by him back and large on all other state matters. Not once has he meddled in the political processes except when Naveen has sought his expert opinion on any issue concerning the ordinary people.

Unfortunately, some self-serving politicians, not used to be guided by ingenious public officials, experienced unimaginable discomfort and distress.

Baijayant Panda is not part of the ordinary class. He does not seem to be one who can see through the hearts of the poor and devise or design schemes for them to bring joy. Baijayant has the arrogance of wealth education and being in political power. So, going by the advice of a young bureaucrat did not go well with him. He considered Karthikeyan a green horn who was expected to seek his advice instead. Panda was also close to the Biju family, particularly Naveen. So he openly displayed his political supremacy. Hence the bad blood between them, which the world is witnessing today. Baijayant would do better to hug the young genius and forget the Ill will generated out of nothing but ego with which Karthikeyan never plays. Naveen Babu cannot ever write him off because the young officer has proven to be an asset on all fronts over the years.

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There is talk of Baijayant being in the BJP fold. But what he does not seem to know is that Modi cannot not ever ignore or offend Naveen in future. As it looks now, BJP is unlikely to make an easy comeback. But Naveen is certain to remain in power as long as he desires- he will be back in 2019, 2024 and even after that. Modi would fall short of numbers in 2019 as BJP in Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh are unlikely to retain power to give Modi the national boss yet again. Modi will require Naveen’s backup in 2019. So, Baijayant has to be cautious about his relationship with Naveen.

Dharmendra Pradhan is absolutely an empty vessel as proven in the Bijepur by-election. He had promised the bosses a victory or a marginal defeat with a 2000 votes difference. Naveen crushed him badly with a 42000 lead. For all this, Dharmendra cannot ever be quality company to anyone aspiring big things in political life.

Baijayant is not looked up as a force in Odisha for obvious reasons. He is in big business. So he will be seen as a self-serving, greedy business entity. So being obsessed with taming a serving bureaucrat may cost him dearly, primarily because the official is delivering as per the chief minister’s desire. And Baijayant has caused woes for Naveen by wrongly believing that he has a big opportunity with the BJP. Kendrapada is gone forever. They say he will cultivate Bargarh, his maternal soil in Western Odisha. But then the couch is certain to blow away the lotus graphics in think air. That’s the report people get from the pollsters.

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