Who is Naveen Patnaik?
Naveen Patnaik, born 16 October 1946, is the current and 14th Chief Minister of Odisha in India. He is also the President of the Biju Janata Dal and a writer, having written three books.
As of 2022, he is the longest-serving Chief Minister of Odisha and one of the longest-serving Chief Ministers of any Indian State. He has held the post for more than two decades. Naveen Patnaik is also only the third Indian Chief Minister, following Pawan Chamling and Jyoti Basu, to win five consecutive terms as Chief Minister of an Indian State.
Naveen Patnaik has proven to be India’s most popular Chief Minister. Even late West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, a Marxist, who held the record for the longest-serving CM, lacked the invincibility Naveen possesses today.
His Political Career
Following the death of his father, Janata Dal leader Biju Patnaik, was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha in a by-election from the Aska Parliamentary Constituency in Odisha, India. He served on the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Steel and Mines, the Standing Committee on Commerce, and the Parliamentary Library Committee. In 1997, the Janata Dal split, and Naveen Patnaik founded the Biju Janata Dal, which performed well in alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, and Naveen Patnaik was appointed Union Minister for Mines in A. B. Vajpayee’s cabinet.
After the BJD-BJP victory in the Legislative Assembly Elections in 2000, Naveen Patnaik resigned as Minister of Mines and left the Lok Sabha, becoming the Chief Minister of Odisha.
Why does he remain invincible?
Naveen Patnaik first appeared as legendary Biju Patnaik’s least-known younger son. Many assumed he would only serve as a puppet in the hands of rogue politicians looking to cash in on the Biju legacy. Biju Babu was deified long before his death. He was regarded as the only politician who both meant well and did well for the state.
Naveen made it a point, from the start, to listen to gutsy, spotless, and honest bureaucrats, particularly from the IAS cadre, who would determine what is important for the State, design people-friendly schemes, and call all critical shots. The political executive would only serve as a front and ensure that the people benefited in every way. The general public became aware of this special arrangement fairly early on and is generally content as long as things are going well.
The general perception of Naveen Patnaik, both inside and outside the government, is that he is a doer, both as a politician and an administrator.
It was this eminence that fueled the Odisha government’s response to Cyclone Phailin, which battered the state’s coast in October 2013. Mission Zero Casualty helped to mitigate the damage. In comparison to the 1999 cyclone, which killed 12,642 people, the death toll was reduced to 21.
Both the United Nations and the World Bank praised the government’s efforts, making it a rare example of effective disaster management in a country with a dismal track record of dealing with natural disasters.