HALLMARK OF A GREAT LEADER
Since Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also happens to be the president of Biju Janata Dal, there is always speculation in the political circles about his successor. Patnaik had sought to scotch rumours in this regard with an emphatic statement, made on the party’s 23rd foundation day last year, that the BJD was not dependent on him or any other leader for its survival and growth. He had described the BJD as a people’s movement.
His statement reflected the strength and the growing popularity of the regional party that has smashed one electoral record after another in the state. There is no denying that the BJD owes its success to his matchless leadership and the entire credit for turning it into a people’s movement goes to him.
On present form, the BJD is miles ahead of its two main rivals, BJP and the Congress, which have utterly failed to project themselves as an alternative to the party. The Congress is down in the dumps being reduced to its single-digit presence in the state assembly. And the BJP, which is now the main opposition party in the state, is yet to win the confidence of the people to be able to throw any real challenge to the BJD.
However, it is no secret that the state’s most successful regional party in history depends almost entirely on the charisma of Patnaik to keep its enviable electoral record intact. He is its mascot and main vote-catcher. Irrespective of what his critics say about his Odia, he can communicate with his people in a manner no other leader of his generation can. His “Mu ta khusi, apana mane khusi ta?” (I am happy, are you people happy?) rings louder than the rhetoric of his political opponents during election campaigns. He just waves at the people and wins hands down.
Political observers have been trying to decipher the mystique of the five-time chief minister ever since he stepped into politics more than 20 years ago in the wake of the demise of his legendary father, Biju Patnaik. They are yet to understand him fully. Many are surprised by his phenomenal success in politics, an art he seems to have mastered much better than some of his seasoned rivals who have plied the trade for a much longer time.
If winning elections alone is the criterion of success in politics, he has broken all records and left even his illustrious father far behind. It is his indispensability to the party that provokes the succession question time and again. He is a titan before whom other leaders of the party appear to be pygmies. One cannot think of anyone who can match his charisma and people management skills. But Patnaik seems to have settled the succession issue by making BJD indispensable to the people of the state. And that is really the hallmark of a great leader.