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Odisha loves to be fooled by Naveen!


Posted Wednesday July 06, 2016

Odisha, Politics, Naveen Patnaik  
Giving due credit to the people of Odisha, it is true that the Congress has not been able to build a solid platform despite innumerable attempts and frequent PCC President reshuffles. So the responsibility of ensuring that Naveen is unable to April-fool Odisha lies with the Congress.  
Dr Sasmit Patra  

April 1st happens to be Utkal Diwas or the foundation day for the state of Odisha. But for the past 13 years Naveen has been perpetuating an April Fool’s Day on the people of Odisha and we love him for it. After being Odisha’s Chief Minister for 13 years, he continues to cock a snook on the face of Odias, dares them to throw him out of power despite his stubbornness not to learn the Odia language but still manages to draw large cheers when he speaks in anglicized Odia on April 1st and talks of protecting Odia culture, tradition and literature. He continues to over-step the part on mentioning Odia language and a vast majority of Odia loving intellectuals and self-conscious Odias prefer to over-step along with him in the make-belief that all is well. If he had been the Chief Minister of Bengal, Andhra, Tamil Nadu or Kerala, the press and media of that state would have asked their Chief Minister on a daily basis as to when he is going to learn the vernacular language of the state.


But in Odisha the vernacular press and media are extremely forgiving and therefore prefer to carry his English comments on vernacular media, somehow imagining that the Odia speaking crowd would magically understand Naveen Babu’s English and therefore why unnecessarily bother with Odia sub-titles. A BJD leader once said that there is no need for Naveen to learn Odia since he has a divine power to understand the problems of people by just looking at them. I am sure such divine powers and the divinity of Naveen is unquestioned by large sections of intelligentsia of Odisha who swears by the Odia pride but stops short of questioning Naveen on trampling the Odia pride with his willfully crafted Odia-import branding.

Naveen has also been doing an April Fool’s Day to Odisha on the issue of special category status for the state. On April 7th when he takes centre-stage for the state-level rally of the BJD Youth wing in Bhubaneswar, his speech would largely focus on how Odisha has been deprived of the special category status. He will talk of Centre’s neglect and Odisha’s need for being given the status of a special category state. In the same breath he will also read about how Odisha is marching ahead with a nine percent plus growth rate, massive employment being generated, large sections of population being alleviated from poverty and the Odisha shining picture to all and sundry. Many will lap it up wide-eyed notwithstanding the paradox being dished out by Naveen himself that how a state which is supposed to be racing ahead on socio-economic development need the crutches of a special category status? The Planning Commission members might have a tough time trying to control the urge to roll on the floor and laugh when on one side they are given statistics of a state which is closing on the double digit growth rate, speaks of a quarter population being pulled out of poverty and still is some-how trying to hard-sell its case for a special category status. That’s Naveen doing an April Fool’s Day on Odisha but statistically how does he get this dichotomous logic past the economic planners of the nation? There was a saying – You can fool some, all of the time; you can fool all, some of the time; but you can’t fool all, all of the time. But with Naveen this needs slight rectification. Naveen can fool Odisha all of the time, he could fool India some of the time, but you can’t fool India (barring Odisha) all of the time. This false bravado of special category status demand is a fear-stricken politician’s strategy to keep his neck above the rising political waters with a person called Nitish Kumar not only stealing a march on Naveen but in fact leaving Naveen miles behind in his pursuit for Prime Minister-ship, in case it comes.

A few days back an Odia girl was raped in Delhi. Two BJD lady ministers rushed to Delhi and met the Police Commissioner demanding the culprits be immediately arrested. This action is laudable and shows that the Odisha Government and its CM Naveen has a heart for the well being of Odia women. A large procession comprising of BJD Youth and Women wings marched in Bhubaneswar decrying this event and rightly so. But somehow the same love and compassion is not seen when women in Odisha are raped and gangraped. Minors are raped and gangraped. Dalit and Tribal girls are raped and trafficked. When crime is increasing and law and order is rapidly deteriorating in the state and women are audaciously molested in auto-rickshaws in Bhubaneswar , the same level of compassion by Naveen’s BJD is not even seen miles away. No BJD minister least a BJD lady minister is ever seen doing the rounds of the Bhubaneswar Police Commissioner. Probably that is not the politically correct thing to do. The BJD brought out large rallies in support of Nirbhaya after the heinous crime against her in Delhi and rightly so. But the same Naveen babu’s party fails to even murmur against the growing lawlessness in the state and atrocities against women. But don’t we love this double-speak. Despite this split-personality syndrome, do not BJD and Naveen continue to draw crowds and that too with large numbers of women in them? Of course, Naveen has perfected the art of making a fool out of Odisha, knows the pulse of Odisha and with his craftily broken Odia still manages the “Bhai and Bhaunimane” and the hilariously sounding pronunciation of Chandikhol and Kendrapada; law and order of the state be damned. Everyone loves a half-baked anglicized Odia, don’t we? Even after thirteen years, many of us are ready for “yeh dil maange more”.

An oft-dished logic in favour of a half-baked leader is that since there is no alternative, the famous TINA factor, therefore Naveen is the only choice and therefore we must all bow down to him in unison and bring him to power. Who else is there? Congress is divided is the usual make-believe slogan. To a certain extent I agree with his perception though it is inherently flawed in its logic. But giving due credit to the people of Odisha, it is true that the Congress has not been able to build a solid platform despite innumerable attempts and frequent PCC President reshuffles. So the responsibility of ensuring that Naveen is unable to April-fool Odisha lies with the Congress. If it fails to deliver a strong alternative to Naveen, then naturally Naveen would be happily walking to the electoral bank to cash his chips, come the counting day. The recent elevation of Ashok Chaudhary as the Bihar Congress President is encouraging also for Odisha. He is a young person in his mid forties and is by far the youngest Congress President in Bihar in a few decades. The need of the hour is to project a younger and cleaner face. The real text of the recent meetings at Delhi between Rahul Gandhi and Odisha Congress leaders should be read between the lines. There is more than meets the eye. If the Congress only ensures that electoral ticket distribution is undertaken transparently and responsibly with the right candidates in the right constituencies, then its game on against Naveen. The Pyari factor will play a spoiler against Naveen and is not destined to go the Keshubhai Patel way. Even today there are at least 45 BJD MLAs including dozens of Councillors across the state who are with Pyari. There are at least another 30 MLAs who can jump to Pyari’s fence. The only trouble is that Pyari’s resource points have been bottled up by Naveen but till such time that Pyari declares his political party. Then the dynamics both politically and resource-wise is bound to change. The best opportunity for Congress is to strike in the coming elections and if it is not able to get past the post, at least attempt to get closer with about 40 to 50 MLAs this time around. This would help the Congress to put the Government on the mat every Assembly session, raise public opinion and generate a strong anti-incumbency which Naveen has been bucking for the past three terms. With a vote share rise of only four percent the Congress would get there. If the momentum picks up from Pyari, then the resultant vote split of BJD would be a bonus for Congress. Further with BJP weaning away the vote share it had surrendered to Naveen in 2009 elections due to its organisational cannibalization by BJD, the upcoming 2014 elections or shall we say 2013 are set to lead us into an interesting build up. But till then let the April-fooling by Naveen on Odisha continue!

[Author is a political commentator turned politician]


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