Biju Janata Dal candidates have registered impressive win with high margins in elections in four Zilla Parishads- in Pattangi and Dashmantpur in Koraput district, Chatrapur in Ganjam district and Dangadi in Jaipur district. These electoral triumphs have been registered barely a month after the historic win of Shrimati Rita Sahu in Bijepur Assembly Constituency over her opponent by nearly 98 thousand votes. Such serial victories in elections after the massive mandate for Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik in Assembly elections of April 2019 are integral to his long tenure lasting for almost two decades. These unmistakably validate his oft repeated conviction that once people's representatives are with people they would not worry about their prospects of winning elections.
The Zila Parishad victories for BJD candidates in these four seats indicate in a robust manner the endorsement of people for BJD's programmes and policies which in a focussed manner are more oriented to serve people through several innovative governance schemes at the centre of which remain Mo Sarkar, My Government. A casual interaction with Sudhir Rout, a resident of Brahmapur , the adjacent town of Chatrapur from where the BJD candidate won Zila Parishad elections revealed the impact of Mo Sarkar scheme launched on 2nd October 2019.
He said "There is a perceptible change in administration;especially in Police and Health Dept, after Mo Sarkar and 5T was implemented in Odisha.The common man is no more scared of Khaki and delinquent doctors are spending more time in hospitals than in private clinics.If it continues for another 5 years the work culture of the administration will change and common man will be immensely benefited and will feel secured." Such a perceptible observation coming from a person who is not politically affiliated and often makes critical remarks about many policies of Odisha Government affirm the manner in which BJD has endeared itself to people to fine tune governance for the welfare of people.
The Zila Parishad victory has come close on the heels of NITI Ayoga appreciating the 5T programme of the Odisha Government in improving education sector and the benefitting students in schools in getting access to quality education. The appreciation of NITI Ayoga in its assessment of 5T programme which remains central to Mo Sarkar has disproved those critics who were dismissive of the 5T as a illusory trick to create a false sense of empowerment among people without enhancing their capability in any tangible manner.
Apart from NITI Ayog the Outlook magazine has hailed the Mo Sarkar scheme as the best and outstanding measure initiated by Naveen Patnaik. Such schemes combined with relentless punitive and deterrent steps against corrupt officers convicted by vigilance courts have driven home the point that that Shri Naveen Patnaik believes in substantive action in providing clean and effective governance.
The recent report of the Transparency International that Odisha is one of the very few least corrupt States of India has emphasised on the point that the State has undergone massive transformation from the status of what Shri Naveen Patnaik described as "Augean Stable" when he took over as Naveen Patnaik nineteen years back.
He said so in an interview published in India Today on 3rd July 2017 and was determined to clean the Augean Stable and after nineteen years the report of the Transparency International has testified to his determined, arduous and relentless quest for providing a caring and open Government to people. While answering a question of the India Today correspondent in July 2017 "What have you learnt over the years that has enabled you to stay so focussed", he said with all earnestness and sincerity of purpose that "...to interact with people, to keep our programmes efficient...for the benefit of the poor" and to "make the administration. corruption free".
The assessment of Odisha by none less than Transparency International as least corrupt constitutes a huge victory for the measures taken by Naveen Patnaik against corruption right from the time he took over as CM of the State. His emphasis on continuous and constant interaction with people reminds us of the words of Mahatma Gandhi who wrote in Young India on 25th September 1924 "A voter is one who actively interests himself in the organisation in which he is a voter. Our voters are not of that type. The fault is not theirs, but ours. We have not interested ourselves sufficiently in them. And we are not going to do so without being spurred thereto. From month to month, officials will have to keep themselves in direct touch with every single voter. It surprises me that it should be necessary to demonstrate the obvious". What was stated by Gandhiji as the obvious is not followed by people and political parties even today. That is the reason why most of them do not succeed.
The fact that Shri Naveen Patnaik is doing what Gandhi said and has emerged as an exponent and practitioner of those values to deepen democracy and make it more welfare oriented to serve people and uplift them from the depths of poverty and corruption has made him a true leader of people whose mandate flows to him as a matter of routine exercise of their power as masters in a democracy to provide legitimacy to him to serve them. This is the larger meaning of victories in Zilla Parishad elections so authentically registered by BJD. Only casual observers of Odisha politics and public life would dismiss it as of lesser importance as it involved four seats but a mere peep into its dynamics would reveal a profound dimension which is rooted in Naveen Patnaik's tryst with cleaning of Augean Stable. It is continuing with vigour and vitality showing vastly improved results.
#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.