Naveen Patnaik: The Longest-Serving Chief Minister of Odisha

By Arshita Biswas

The longest-serving Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, is the third and current Chief Minister of Odisha. He was born on 16 October 1946 in Cuttack, to the former Chief Minister of Odisha Biju Patnaik and his Punjabi wife, Gyan. He has done his schooling from Dehradun and qualified for a Bachelor of Arts degree from Delhi University. Patnaik was a writer and has written three books. He had no interest in politics at an early age and has also been away from Odisha for a long time, but soon after his father’s demise, he joined politics in 1997 and also founded Biju Janata Dal, which then won the state election, making him the chief minister of Odisha. Patnaik completes 20 years in the office making him one of the longest-serving Chief ministers of any Indian state.

Holding the office for over two decades, only implies that Patnaik has had a massive support base in Odisha., some of the reasons leading to such a huge following is his mild mannerism, “Stand against corruption” and “Pro-poor policies”. Like his father, he too has managed to control the bureaucracy and transformed it into a state development mechanism.

Patnaik brought light back in Odisha when he was elected as the Chief Minister of the state, quite literally as the state of Odisha was in darkness at the break of dawn of the new Millennium in 2000. A horrendous cyclone had swept away the whole state off its feet. Around 10,000 people were killed; electric poles, trees were uprooted; houses were destroyed. Odisha was at its lowest point when Naveen Patnaik was elected as the successor of the political legacy of his father. “People’s self-confidence was at its lowest when Naveen Patnaik took over. The rest of the country bracketed Odisha as a backward state suffering from starvation, poverty and natural calamities,” says Balakrishnan, who was an IAS officer posted in Odisha around the 2000s and now is an advisor to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).  Taking these labels off Odisha and breaking these stereotypes were Paitnaik’s biggest obstacles and in 20 years, the man has successfully achieved it all. Odisha has set global benchmarks in disaster management, more than 8 million people have been brought above the poverty line and the government is known for its transparency, with all credits to Naveen Patnaik and his government.

Patnaik’s main lookout for his state has been his people, he has always wanted to give a better life to the people of Odisha and that intention has again been proven in these difficult times of the pandemic. This father’s day, he stood there as a father for all those children who got orphaned by Covid, by launching a scheme called “Ashirbad”. Under this scheme, the children who have lost either both their parents or single parent are entitled to get Rs 2,500 per month and those who lost one of their sole earning parents are entitled to get Rs 1,500 per month under the scheme. The amount will be directly credited to the accounts of the guardians of the children till they attain the age of 18. Although, this scheme won’t be valid for the children who have been adopted.  The government also announced to extend health services and food security for the children under the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana and state food security scheme.  Also to ensure that orphaned children get the best possible education, the Odisha government has announced that they would be given seats in Odisha Adarsha Vidyalaya, Central schools and other reputed schools. Under the Green Passage scheme, the state will also bear the educational expenses for their higher studies. To encourage the guardians of these orphaned kids, the CM also announced that people who take care of the children and are eligible to get houses will be given houses under Pradhan Mantri Yojana and Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana on a priority basis. Also for children residing in child care institutions, the government will deposit Rs 1,000 in their respective bank accounts till they attain the age of 18 years. Similarly, surviving mothers of such children, if eligible, will be covered under the Madhu Babu Pension scheme (social security scheme).

The BJD ( Biju Janta Dal) has been successfully setting new benchmarks of pushing the fields of sports, heritage and tourism to all-new levels. The next step in the BJD’s plan of action is to diversify and remodel Odisha as a destination for knowledge-based industries like technology and financial services. Besides these new schemes, one of the most important things the Odisha government has been lately focussing on is industrialisation. Odisha is extremely rich in minerals, it has excellent coal, iron ore and bauxite deposits, along with a beautiful and long coastline, hence, Odisha is one of the largest suppliers of raw materials. However, experts believe now is the time for Odisha to also focus on strengthening its manufacturing department. Gyanranjan Swain, political analyst and assistant professor at Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, adds that the government’s push toward industry has intensified over the last 2 and half years. After coming back to power in 2019, Patnaik sought to reinvent the state’s Industrial Policy Resolution, 2015, to unveil new legislation that focussed on drawing fresh investments and boosting job creation. 

Patnaik commemorated 20 years in office on March 5, 2019. At 75, Patnaik is today one of the longest-serving CMs in India. Through consistent welfare schemes, a clean and transparent governance image, no major controversies and following development narrative, his party Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has defied anti-incumbency and have been re-elected by the people of Odisha for five consecutive terms. In the 2019 Assembly elections, the party secured a strong 113 out of 147 seats; leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at a distant second position with only 23 seats. In an exclusive interaction with Forbes India at his residence in Bhubaneswar, he admits that the longevity of his tenure has helped sharpen his focus over the years. He says it’s an important principle to consider winning elections as just a by-product of the work that a party is supposed to do for people.

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