A FEW WISE DECISIONS
A FEW WISE DECISIONS
As always chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo, Naveen Patnaik has picked his party’s Rajya Sabha candidates wisely. His decision to support BJP candidate and former Odisha cadre IAS officer Ashwini Vaishnav for the third Upper House seat from Odisha has been equally sagacious.
The two BJD candidates for the House of Elders—Amar Patnaik and Sasmit Patra—come from different backgrounds but have proved their worth for the party within a short span of time. While Patnaik, a former principal accountant general who currently heads the party’s IT cell, played a stellar role in fashioning BJD’s spectacular victory in the recent elections, Patra, an academician-turned-politician, has been articulating the party’s stand on various issues as its spokesperson.
Both are efficient, suave and articulate. By sending them to the Rajya Sabha the chief minister would be further strengthening his party’s parliamentary team. From all accounts they are assets whose presence in the parliament will boost BJD’s stock there.
Patnaik’s support for Vaishnav, who has served as private secretary to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has triggered a debate with opposition trying to portray it as a case of secret deal between BJP and BJD who were alliance partners in the state before falling out and going their separate ways in 2009.
The allegation, however, is completely wrong considering that neither the BJP nor the BJD tried to hide the fact that the former bureaucrat was being supported by Patnaik’s party. In fact, Patnaik himself told the media that his party was backing Vaishnav, who had served Odisha well as a bureaucrat, following a request from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP president and union Home Minister Amit Shah. So where is the question of secrecy.
Vaishnav, who formally joined the BJP in Bhubaneswar in the presence of state unit president and Kalahandi MP Basanta Panda has thanked both Prime Minister and the chief minister of Odisha. He also expressed his gratitude to the BJP. “It has given me a chance to serve the people of Odisha. I thank the party for choosing me as its candidate for the by-poll to the Upper House of the Parliament. I will work for the development of the state,” said the former bureaucrat soon after formally joining the party.
Patnaik has also acted wisely by not nominating any of the leaders who lost the recent elections to the Rajya Sabha as the move would have been seen as an attempt to rehabilitate defeated politicians. This would have drawn criticism on two accounts—one it would have raised a question mark on the quality of leaders being sent to the Upper House of parliament and secondly it would have been an unfair reward to leaders who failed to prove their worth in the elections.
It would have also made BJD leaders complacent. The party, in fact, should stop nominating defeated leaders to positions of power. This would send across a clear message that leaders must earn their place in the party and should stop treating either the party or the government as a rehabilitation centre.
Patnaik, in fact, has made a good move by appointing Subroto Bagchi, the co-founder of Mindtree and a well-known IT entrepreneur, as the chairman of Odisha Skill Development Authority (OSDA) with rank of a cabinet minister and eminent educationist Bijoy Sahoo as advisor to Odisha Adarsa Vidyalaya Sangathan with the rank of a minister of state.
By making these non-political appointments, he has not only steered clear of any controversy but has also rewarded people who have excelled in their respective fields and can contribute meaningfully to the development of the state without meddling in politics.
As for the talk about the revived bonhomie between the BJD and BJP, it must be remembered that Patnaik, despite his avowed policy of maintaining equidistance from BJP and Congress, has always adopted a flexible approach in this regard in the larger interest of the state. This is the reason his party supported the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill and helped its passage in the Rajya Sabha.
The BJD also voted for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind as the president of India and then again voted for its candidate Harivansh as the deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha. BJD leaders have repeatedly explained that given the regional character of their party, the interest of Odisha has always been uppermost in their mind. “This is why our support varies from issue to issue,” said a senior party leader.
As for BJP and BJD relations, Odisha chief minister has always enjoyed an excellent rapport with central leaders of the saffron party. In fact soon after floating the BJD in 1997 Patnaik allied with the BJP, won the Lok Sabha election and then served as a minister in the Vajpayee cabinet. His relations with Vajpayee and Vaishnav have been cordial ever since. The BJD-BJP alliance won the 2000 Assembly polls with Patnaik becoming the chief minister of the state for the first time.
Patnaik parted ways with the BJP in 2009 after the Kandhamal riots and has been contesting elections separately but this has not strained his relations with top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former union finance minister Arun Jaitley. Besides, as someone has rightly pointed out in politics nothing is permanent except interests. In Patnaik’s case it is the interest of Odisha that matters to him the most.