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Statesman Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's historic victory in 2019 elections signify victory of welfare, empowerment and inclusive nationalism

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 30, May 2019, 10:08 am IST | UPDATED: 30, May 2019, 15:09 pm IST

Statesman Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's historic victory in 2019 elections signify victory of welfare, empowerment and inclusive nationalism

While in Bhubaneswar on the day of counting of election results on 23rd May 2019 it was quite amazing to see Biju Janata Dal under the leadership of Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik defying national trend of voting BJP back to power and creating an unparalleled record of receiving a massive mandate of people consecutively for fifth time. In winning 112 out of 147 seats for State Assembly and securing more than 12 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats yet again a new trend in Odisha has been set in the political domain. It reaffirms people’s support for BJD and Shri Naveen Patnaik. The entire nation marvels at the statesman Chief Minister Shri Patnaik in scripting a remarkable success which is at once historic and devoid of hubris.

There was no anti incumbency for Naveen Patnaik

The extraordinary victory of BJD and Shri Patnaik proved his own pre election assertion true. In March, a month before elections, while answering a question of Rajdeep Sardeasi if there was going to be brand Modi vs Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, Shri Patnaik said with quiet dignity “Modi will not have much impact and you will see from election results. I am indeed sure of victory”. Stating that fighting every election is hard he confidently claimed that “We will win the elections handsomely” and “the results of this election will show that there is no anti incumbency”.

Indeed the triumph of BJD under the leadership of Shri Patnaik is absolutely splendid and he unmistakably proved that there was no anti-incumbency for his party and himself. When Prime Minister Modi in an election rally in Kendrapara on 24th April 2019 disparagingly said that Shri Patnaik would get a humiliating farewell on declaration of results, Shri Patnaik decently responded by saying that in the third phase itself his party got majority and he would extend a kind invitation to Prime MinisterModi to attend his swearing ceremony as Chief Minister for the fifth term.

Victory in saving human lives from Fani Cyclone was accompanied by historic victory in elections

Registration of such historic and path breaking victory after his internationally acclaimed performance of shifting 1.2 million people in twenty four hours to safe places and greatly minimizing human casualties from colossal disaster of Fani is indeed worth cherishing and celebrating. It is in continuation of his earlier track recordof excellence in disaster management recognized by the UN and world at large.

Welfare Policies are tools of empowerment improving socio economic indices of State. While accepting the award of ideal Chief Minister in Pune in January 2018 Shri Patnaik had said that when people are kept at the core of politics there is no anti-incumbency and when people are at the forefront the journey instead of becoming political becomes a spiritual experience. During the last four terms the BJD Government did put the people at the forefront and heralded an era of constructive developmentalpolitics, the chief attributes of which are numerous welfare policies for poor and underprivileged people of the State which include a kilo of rice for one rupee, special scheme for farmers KALIA, (Krishak assistance Livelihood and Income Augmentation), Biju Swasthya Jojana, construction of high quality roads across the State and above all economic and political empowerment of women through self help groups which enlisted a massive seven million women across the State.

Answering a question as to what desired results his welfare policies being implemented since 2000 have produced, Shri Patnaik said that those have enabled Odisha to register socio economic indicators above national average and the State known for poverty is now known for the sharpest decline in poverty in the country. Adding further he said that Odisha which earlier depended on other States for feeding its own people is now enjoys the distinguished position as the third largest contributor to the food security of the country. He disapproved description of welfare measures of his Government for people as dolesand asserted that these are tools of empowerment.

Welfare and Empowerment narrative became mainstream narrative in elections in Odisha

It is educative to note that the dominant narrative during the 2019 elections in Odisha was set by the welfare and empowerment policies of the BJD Government headed Shri Naveen Patnaik. It stood in sharp contrast to BJP’s country wide election narrative based on majoritarianism, aggressive and exclusive nationalism and India’s air strike in Balakot in Pakistan following unfortunate and sad killing of forty CRPF personnel in Pulwama. Eventually the BJD’s empowerment narrative flowing from welfare policies became the mainstream narrative in elections in Odisha.

The top BJP leaders who were appealing to the electorate in rest of the country for their support and vote on the ground that national security would be best safeguarded under a so called strong leader like Modi had adopted a different approach in Odisha to respond to the mainstream welfare and empowerment policies followed by Shri Naveen Patnaik Government for the last twenty years. It was evident from the statement of BJP leader and Union Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan who promised that after his party would form Government in the State five kilos of rice, half kilo dal and salt would be given to people for just one rupee. Such a promise sounded hallow, unreasonable and unconvincing and, therefore, did not gain traction at all. BJP has been ruling several States of our country and in none of those States such a scheme has been put into operation.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Odisha decided to block implementation of Odisha Government’s KALIA scheme for farmers citing operation of model code of conduct. However, it allowed the Kisan Samman programme of the Modi Government even though it came into operation much after the implementation of KALIA scheme. Strangely the decision to block KALIA Scheme was defended by Union Minister Shri Pradhan. Chief Minister Shri Patnaik personally went to Chief Electoral Officer to explain him that KALIA scheme framed much before the announcement of elections should be allowed to be implemented much in the same way that the Kisan Samman Scheme of the Union Government is allowed. But his appeal went unheeded. He asserted in his numerous election speeches that as long as he was there none could stop KALIA Scheme and he would ensure its implementation and release of money to farmers after taking oath as the Chief Minister on declaration of election results. He also confidently declared that farmers would electorally respond to the unjust and unfair treatment meted out to them by subverting the Scheme meant for their welfare.

The decision of the Election Commission to block KALIA scheme of Odisha Government and at the same time allow implementation of Kisan Samman of the Union Government created a perception among people that welfare and empowerment policy of Shri Naveen Patnaik Government has become a casualty due to the electoral calculus of BJP. Yet again it was seen as an attempt to negate and derail welfare and empowerment narrative encapsulating pro farmer scheme of the Government. It gave an impression that BJP was responding to the vibrant narrative of welfare and empowerment of BJD with a view to obstruct its successful implementation.

The perception among people that there was triumph of narrative based on welfare and empowerment over the the narrative based on majoritarianism and muscular nationalism right in the midst of elections was indicative of election outcome in favor of the BJD.

Political Empowerment of women gave gender dimension to massive electoral victory of Shri Patnaik

In fact one of the distinguishing and defining aspects of Shri Naveen Patnaik’s idea of empowerment has been substantively expressed in his concrete policy for bringing more women to the mainstream of national politics. Just two days before the announcement of 2019 general elections it was Shri Patnaik who made history in our country by announcing from Kendrapara that his party, BJD,would field women candidates in one third of twenty one parliamentary seats of the State. He did so and and it was an extraordinary decision setting a national narrative and inspiring some top leadersof our country o announce similar measures. It is heartening to note that five of the seven women fielded by Shri Patnaik for Lok Sabha have won the elections and, thereby, the exceptionally impressive victory of BJD for fifth term stands distinguished in history of our Republic for investing an invaluable gender dimension to our politics. It proved the point that “democracy minus women is no democracy”.

Therefore, Shri Naveen Patnaik’s incredible win with an exemplary record of fulfilling his commitment to give tickets to women to contest in thirty three per cent of seats of Lok Sabha in Odisha stands out as a brilliant example of inclusive politics. His decision to field Shrimati Pramila Bisoyi, a lady with hardly any impressive indicator of social and economic status and hailing from a very humble background stirred the imagination of people of the State and she became one of the key symbols of women’s empowerment. She campaigned in several constituencies and people and media were hugely attracted to her because of her simple and rustic personality enriched by common touch and common feeling.

Religious Minorities in Odisha are equal partners in Inclusive Development and Welfare BJD manifesto had a separate section on minority welfare and it is indicative of its inclusive outlook on development. Muslim population in Odisha is next to Christianpopulation. Muslims and people belonging to faiths such as Christianity and other creeds constitute very low per cent age of the total population of Odisha.

The measures taken by BJD Government for Muslims of Odisha is indicative of its allembracing and inclusive approach tominorities in the State which since ages have created an enduring culture of coexistence of all faiths. Several Muslim leaders are of the opinion that in pastCongress in Odisha might have fielded many Muslims as MLAs and made them Ministers but actual substantive work for Muslims was done by Shri Naveen Patnaik. Many of them particularly referred to the Haj Bhavan in a spacious ground in Bhubaneswar and said that for the first time in history of Odisha the Government headed by Naveen Patnaik spent money for building the impressive Bhavan which never existed earlier.

They also said that among other measures for Muslims the State Government’s allocation of 5 acres of land for building Maulana Azad National Urdu University near Cuttack has been very striking and noteworthy. Such measures have been accompanied by several other scholarship programs for students of minority communities. These are certainly significant steps for the Muslim and minorities communities which in terms of their population in the State is very minimal. Yet they are treated equally and with dignity and the syncretic culture of the State plays an indispensable enabling factor in this regard.

In several election meetings of BJD organized in Muslim inhabited areas of some parts of the State a large number of Hindus were also present. Even Muslim leaders who spoke referred to basic livelihood issues and not to Pakistan, terrorism or lynching of Muslims. One Muslim leader brought out the differencebetween Modi and Naveen Patnaik and said that while Modi talked about Jumlas Naveen spoke less and really acted and implemented programmes centered around basic issues. People applauded him. It wasfascinating to see Hindu married women with vermillion on their forehead sitting side by side by Muslim women. It was said that such inclusive and harmonious approach promoting fraternity cutting across the barriers of faith has endeared Shri Naveen Patnaik to people of all communities and they stood by him during the elections and gave him their invaluable support and vote.

Electoral Victory for Naveen Patnaik is a Victory for Soft Power

The record victory for fifth term combined with a huge women’s political empowerment brings out the inclusive ideals in Shri Naveen’s personality profile which represents soft power the defining aspects of which are persuasion and attraction and not coercion, imposition and domination. This soft power of Shri Patnaik manifested in his day to day conduct in politics and public life eschewing harsh words, bitterness and acrimony even against his staunch opponent has endeared himself to people across India and set out a fine example of statesmanship, sanity, poise,dignity and decency which are seriously compromised even among the top leadership of our country. 

Three I's-Infrastructure, Investment and Inclusive Development and Politics based on basic issues of people

On one occasion while interacting with a media personality he was asked to give reasons behind repeated success in winning huge mandate of people of Odisha. He said three I's-Infrastructure, Investment and Inclusive development- which enabled him to render service to the people and State of Odisha. In building good infrastructure- roads, bridges and buildings,- attracting investment to the State and making growth inclusive through numerous welfare policies he has transformedOdisha and improved its rate of growth, increased its per capita income and empowered ordinarypeople. And mobilization of seven million women through self help groups have given new depth andcontent to the inclusive growth because of which large number of women constitute a reservoir of support for BJD and Shri Patnaik.

It is for these reasons that Shri Patnaik has endeared himself to the people. He wants that the Union Government should revise coal royalties for Odisha so that the State would get Rs 10,000 crores. He wants that Rupees two thousand crores the Railways gets from the State should be spent in the State. He demands extension of railway lines to other districts which have been devoid of rail connectivity since independence. Shri Patnaik made all these as electoral issues in contrast to the issues of BJP at the national level centered around Balakot strike and aggressive nationalism. Anchored on basic issues of people and women’s empowerment Shri NaveenPatnaik has got an extraordinary mandate for a record fifth term. It is epoch making and encapsulates the fascinating saga of statesman Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik who reaches out to people based on basic issues. His victory in 2019 elections is based on his politics on basic issues of people and not on muscular nationalism or over hyped national security and majoritarianism.

It was evident form his election campaign and also one of his answers to a question which he faced during an interaction with Indian Express recently. The question was —“There is a view that the 2019 election is witnessing an unprecedented communal polarization, with the majority backing one party, and the minorities feeling insecure. Do you agree?”.The answer of Shri Patnaik brought out his apprehensions for safeguarding unity and solidarityof our country from the onslaught of politics based on sectarianism and bigotry. He said that communal polarization witnessed during 2019 elections is not good for the country and “Politics based on sensationalism may yield (returns) in short run but will damage the Democratic fabric in the long run”. The way we witness the assault on composite culture by politics based on majoritarianism following the landslide victory for NDA headed by Shri Narendra Modi constitute an ominous trend. It would damage the Democratic fabric of our country. Therefore, what is required is the politics based on issues as was manifested in Odisha during elections. Politics based on issues necessarily means taking forward the cause of people and keeping their aspirations, hopes and anxieties at the core of governance. Shri Naveen Patnaik had said that when people are kept at the core of politics winning election is of no significance, what is of significance is the progress, change and transformation of lives of people. This historic win of Shri Patnaik represents that constructive approach to politics and power propelled by growth and advancement.


  • The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.
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