BJD has built a formidable network of
contractors, control dealers and transporters. Through this network, the
ruling party is able to siphon off funds from development programs,
mainly Central funds, to meet the day-to-day expenses of running the BJD.
With a few phone calls BJD leaders can activate this network to
transport people to meeting venues, erect impressive arches with
cut-outs of Naveen Patnaik, organize food for thousands of people and
meet other expenses for organizing party activities. Government
employees are aware of the arrangement but they prove their loyalty by
looking the other way when the siphoning takes place. Visit any meeting
venue of BJD and find out how the event was funded/ managed and you will
soon realize how development funds can be scientifically siphoned off.
The Captain of BJD ‘B’, with his acumen in administration, built this
formidable network as part of his dual strategy of a cadre based party
and a committed bureaucracy. It is in the complementarities of
Government Employees, Contractors and BJD leaders that a significant
part of money meant for the poor ends up funding party programs.
Incidentally, most of these contractors and control dealers are now BJD
cadres and some have advanced further. Wherever the Government Scheme
does not provide for engaging a contractor, the party and the officials
work out informal arrangements. Go wherever you want in Odisha, you will
find a BJD connection to the siphoning off money meant for the poor and
no enforcement mechanism to stop the loot.
No show will be possible without a showman
and no showman can exist without an image. The entire time of the Chief
Minister is spent in image-building. He plans his statements, speeches,
political strategies diligently and monitors the media to provide spins.
But, that is all that he is interested in. The siphoning off can continue so long as his leaders can assemble a crowd and the image can
be sustained. As and when taking action against a politician or
bureaucrat enhances his image, Naveen Patnaik will not wink an eye-lid.
He has created a make-belief world of incredible credulity despite
thorough administrative incompetence. Development issues are secondary
to his entire political thought process and therefore, the bureaucracy
operates without any political direction, supervision or leadership. The
Ministers are actually sorry figures, who resent in private for playing
second fiddle to the bureaucracy, but waste no opportunity in
demonstrating their loyalty for the leader. The Sycophancy was taken to
the lowest level possible recently when Revenue Minister of the State
Government proudly proclaimed in a public rally in the presence of the
Chief Minister that he is proud to be called a 'chakara'
(domestic servant) of Naveen Patnaik. Mr Patnaik has done nothing, so
far, to express his displeasure for this extra-ordinary display of
loyalty by a Cabinet Minister. The incident clearly shows that BJD
leaders view Naveen Patnaik as a Megalomaniac leader and there is a
competition in sycophancy among BJD leaders. I am waiting for temples to
come up next.
It is well known among informed sections
in Odisha that Naveen Patnaik is not interested in administration or
governance. My impression is he loves the drama around politics with he
in the centre stage. He loves to fool people. Administration and
governance are petty issues better left to a coterie of bureaucrats. He
enjoys moving from place to place to receive public adulation. Party
leaders know that Mr. Naveen Patnaik is more of a showman and less of an
administrator and it helps them to use his showmanship to their benefit
even if no public purpose is served. That is why I had quoted Ninan in
an earlier post as saying that some of India’s regional leaders are
“populist demagogues” and “the behavior of these elected satraps is
comical and clownish for the most part.” In the meantime the siphoning
off development funds can continue.
After 12 years in power Mr. Naveen Patnaik
still takes no interest in the implementation of the developmental
programmes. He has no patience to get into details and is happy to watch
smart PowerPoint presentations by his English-speaking bureaucrats, who
have made him believe that everything is hunky-dory and poverty in
Odisha will soon be history. He, at times, picks up some statistics and
phrases from these bureaucrats and there ends his interest in
administration. For meetings the bureaucrats can always be relied upon
to prepare a written speech and the Chief Minister can read the script
blithely without taking the trouble of remembering anything
non-political. He has not addressed a single press conference either in
Delhi or in Odisha in case people get to know that the king is without
robes. A few hackneyed phrases can pass as media statements or better
still he can read out a written statement. ‘I am looking into the
matter’, ‘the Government is doing everything possible’, ‘law will take
its own course’ etc have been his passport to public life.
Naveen Patnaik is the first Chief Minister
in Indian history who has not addressed a press meet in 12 years and has
refused to learn the language of the state. He has deliberately not
learnt Odia because he would then be at par with all other politicians.
He wants to be different, hatke. That is how he can remain as a
celebrity; if Amitabh Bachan speaks in Odia, people will be delighted.
Similar is the case with Naveen Patnaik. He can delight the crowd by
speaking a few words or sentences in Odia. The caricature adds to the
drama. His is a case study in modern media manipulation and public
perception management; how a thoroughly incompetent person can build the
image of a successful administrator! He can give any communication guru
a run for his money.
[Author is a former
minister of Odisha and, at present, is the Pradesh
Congress Committee President, Odisha]