Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Naveen Patnaik, Mr.Clean

Naveen Patnaik,
Chief Minister of Odisha since 2000
  • Naveen Patnaik was born on Oct 16, 1946 in Cuttack from Biju Patnaik, former Chief Minister of Odisha. He was classmate of Sanjay Gandhi at Doon School, Dehradun. He lived in USA until 1997, away from politics. Patnaik's interest in art and culture drew him into the charmed circle of the rich and famous including Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis.
  • When his father passed away in 1997, the mantle of continuing his political legacy fell on Naveen Patnaik, then 50 years old. He formed the BJD and was elected an MP from his father's constituency in Aska. He said, "I had inherited my father's responsibilities, not privileges. One of the members of his family had to continue his legacy of social responsibility." 
  • In the 2000 Odisha assembly elections, the BJD trounced the ruling Congress and won 68 of the 147 seats, just five short of the majority. Patnaik resigned from the Union Ministry, formed an alliance with the BJP in Odisha and took over as Chief Minister. 
  • He moved into Naveen Niwas that his father built near the Odisha airport occupying the servant quarters instead of the main building which he converted into his residential office. He is a bachelor. He lives life of austerity wearing only simple white kurta-pyjamas.
  • He decided to break the alliance with the BJP in 2009, over Kandhamal communal riots 2008. The BJD contested the elections without any seat sharing arrangements and won a clear majority.
  • Now into his fourth consecutive term, Naveen Patnaik has completed 17 years in the saddle and has joined the list of the longest serving chief ministers of the country (The late Jyoti Basu holds the record of being 23 years at the helm in West Bengal).
  • In 2014, at the height of the Narendra Modi wave, the BJD won a whopping 117 of the 147 Assembly seats and made a clean sweep of the Lok Sabha seats winning 20 of the 21 seats.
  • He is the only chief minister of India who does not speak the regional language of the state. However, he possesses great mastery over the Hindi, French and English. At rallies, he delivers Odia speeches written in Roman alphabet.
  • When Patnaik took over in 2000, Odisha had the country's highest poverty level at 59%. By 2012, the poverty level was down to almost half - 32.5% - the highest reduction in poverty among all Indian states during that period.  Under him Odisha's GDP grew an average of 6.66% annually. Per capita income has grown six fold and touched Rs 66,890 last year. Odisha imported rice from Punjab and Haryana in 2000. It now produces surplus rice. Its anti-poverty programmes and welfare schemes for women have been emulated by the rest of India.
  • He uses a compact no frills Suzuki SX4 bought by the state government six years ago. He refused to have his office chair refurbished though the leather seat is fraying at the edges. Nor has he changed the floor tiling saying the money is better spent on development works for the people of the state. 
  • He bluntly tells his officers to observe 3T's: Team spirit, Transparency, effectively use Technology and put end to PC (percentage commission) culture.  He gave bureaucracy a free hand and encouraged them to come up with innovative solutions.
  • In his first meeting with ministers and bureaucrats of the state, he was repelled by their obsequious behavior, saying their only interest was to find out what was his price. He went about cleaning the Augean stables with political astuteness and ruthlessness that surprised all. He was a mild and incorruptible political leader, and his first tenure in office was marked by his attempts to establish a transparent and corruption-free administration. In the process, he had to act against a corrupt bureaucracy and also some senior leaders of the BJD. He focussed on appalling poverty that had beset the state. He would drop ministers even at the hint of a scandal not fearing political consequences.
  • Naveen Patnaik was felicitated by the United Nations (UN) for an effort to evacuate nearly a million people ahead of tropical storm, Cyclone Phailin, that made a landfall on coastal Odisha in October 2013.
  • Naveen Patnaik's attempts to bring in transparency in the system and his massive drive against corruption in high places, including his own BJD, has given him the epithet of "Mr Clean". An honest, clean and credible image has become more important than the record of economic performance as the key parameter in accounting for the popularity of chief ministers.
  • In 2004, Naveen Patnaik, 57, has grabbed the top slot as the best chief minister.  His impeccable credentials: caring and clean image, credibility, accessibility, and leadership qualities are the things that made him most popular Chief Minister.
  • Patnaik still remains by far the tallest leader of the state. He remains unwaveringly focussed on the development of the state and pursues it with relentless zeal. He has no ambitions to move to the centre. His frugal lifestyle ensures that he has a squeaky clean reputation though some of his ministers and MLAs are now dogged with charges of scandals and scams. 
  • Patnaik remain unfazed by criticism. He says the lessons of the office have taught him to be "attentive to the requirements of the people, to always keep your ears open to their problems and try to deal with them as effectively as he can. If Patnaik follows his simple but effective mantra and sets his party in order, a fifth term should come his way.
  • In the recent Panchayat elections, although the ruling BJD won two thirds of the seats, the BJP won a third of the seats saw its vote share shoot up from 16% to 32%. BJP displaced the Congress as the main Opposition party and can pose a threat to the BJD in the 2019 Assembly elections. 
  • Today, after 17 year, despite signs of anti incumbency and BJP emerging as a credible alternative, Naveen is still by far the tallest leader of the state remaining unwaveringly focused for development of the state pursuing with relentless zeal. He has no ambitions to move to Delhi. Despite his clean image, there are concerns about autocratic behavior, his reclusiveness, overreliance on coterie and lacking second line of leadership etc had its impact. But he remains nonchalant. If Naveen sets his party in order, a fifth term could be well within his reach in 2019.
Some excerpts from his interview

One must beware of ministers who can do nothing without money, 
and those who want to do everything with money ... Indira Gandhi

Start where you are, with what you have. 
Make something of it and never be satisfied ... George Washington Carver

My View:
Naveen Patnaik inherited shattered economy of Odisha, from Congress in 2000. Without much help from Central Government, he made significant progress since then, even though much more is yet to be done. A media & publicity shy person he is, yet he made impact on the people of Odisha which is a very much better place than he founded it. His presence in social media is very minimum. Modi should learn lots of lessons from him, who has the habit of talking too much and bombards publicity from all corners with selective truths and blatant lies and highlighting even his failures as grand successes. One of the poorest & backward states, Odisha even today with per-capita income (ranks 27 of 33) is significantly lower than national average and is only better than MP, Jharkhand, Assam, Manipur, UP & Bihar. Modi hasn't given any special assistance to Odisha during his 3 years, despite requests from Naveen Patnaik.

No comments:

Post a Comment