Naveen To Maintain USP

Brand Biju sales like hot cakes in Odisha’s political market and so also Naveen’s “single” image. Like every famous product, the name Naveen too has a Unique Selling Point (USP).

And this USP of Naveen keeps him ahead of all other politicians of the state. Even BJP’s heavyweight Narendra Modi has realized this in the last general elections in 2014.

What is Naveen’s USP? He is a bachelor, who does not allow his family members to poke their noses in Odisha politics. This younger son of Biju Patnaik, like his illustrious father, has not initiated any member of the Patnaik family to the state politics.

People of Odisha had never seen Naveen when Biju Babu was alive. Keeping family members away from politics is Patnaiks’ USP. This worked in Odisha because of J B Patnaik’s family favour. Despite being an able administrator and a pundit, JB was rejected by voters because of family members’ interference in state politics.  Biju Babu had realized that family members could ruin his political career. Naveen has inherited this mantra.

What has presently gone wrong in the state politics is that the entire media is agog with speculation that Naveen’s elder sister Gita Mehta, who is approaching 80 years, may get a nomination to Rajya Sabha. The speculation fanned like wild fire when Bishnu Das resigned from the Upper House of the Parliament barely nine months after his election.

Media campaign was so strong that BJD’s Chief Spokesperson, Surjya Narayan Patro had to clear the air that Gita is in no way interested in politics. Had Gita been interested, she could have made it much earlier.

Gita, who is attached to her younger brother since childhood, used to spend time in Naveen Niwas mostly in March-April.

The siblings discuss many subjects including social issues but not politics. She had never been interested in politics, as Naveen did not take any interest before Biju Patnaik’s death.

As we had earlier mentioned in this column, political situation in Odisha has undergone a sea change in a span of only one month. Thanks to the three-tier panchayat polls that helped the ruling BJD to make introspection.

The saffron party which was struggling hard to set its feet (even unable to put its flag, according to Modi) in Odisha politics despite the backing of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, suddenly gained strength. To the surprise of many, the lotus has bloomed even in Naveen’s stronghold of coastal Odisha.

And BJP, known for its aggressive politics, does not want to let this opportunity slip. “Now, we realize that Naveen Patnaik can also be defeated in Odisha,” Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said with glee in his eyes.  BJP, through strong publicity, has now created an impression that the saffron party is on its way to gain power in Odisha. This has been reinforced after Uttar Pradesh elections.

Then, why is BJD gradually losing its base, particularly after the panchayat polls? Thanks to infighting in the regional outfit and a rumor that Naveen is unwell and likely to go abroad for treatment. Again, the party President had to clarify that he is fit and fine and there is no need to worry.

Everybody knows it for granted that Naveen is the heart and soul of BJD and the party is a big zero in his absence. The opponents carried it properly to masses and gave an impression that Biju Patnaik’s younger son required someone from his family to keep the fort intact.

Naveen, as per political observers, is now soft to anti-campaigning. It is now very easy to spread rumors against the Chief Minister about his health, possible entry of the family to state politics and such other matters. With a social media, Naveen needs to act fast or fall to the scheme of things of his opponents.

 April appears to be very hot for Odisha politics as a lot of activities are in store in the next 30 days. The beginning of the financial year has, in fact, brought a lot of responsibilities to Naveen in the backdrop of the rural polls where his party lost around 180 zilla parishad seats to BJP even though BJD captured about 72 per cent of the state’s 314 blocks.

At the beginning of the month, Naveen has planned to have direct interaction with grassroots level leaders like sarpanchs, samiti members and zilla parishad members in first 15 days of April. Reshuffle of the Council of Ministers is likely.

Naveen has to re-arrange the power centers across districts in order to defeat the evil design of his opponents. Panchayat poll results, particularly in Mayurbhanj and Kalahandi districts, have forced Naveen to reorganize the party and the Ministry.

And the BJD Supremo has also to ensure that the party’s Parliamentary Party remains intact as some of the MPs have turned over ambitious and are allegedly making friendship with rival political parties. Kendrapara MP Baijayanta Panda’s twitter posts and subsequent op-ed page article on party affairs in an Odia daily has created a flutter in the state politics. Naveen has to ensure that the party MLAs and MPs should remain within the Laxman Rekha.

The BJD Supremo will also have to keep a close watch on the BJP’s National Executive meeting to be held in the state capital on April 15 and 16, which  saffron stalwarts including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National President Amit Shah, a host of Union Ministers, veteran leaders including L K Advani, M M Joshi and others will attend. Political observers are keen to know how many BJP Ministers and stalwarts visit Naveen Niwas this time. This is because; Naveen has a big following in BJP as BJD was part of the NDA Government till 2009.

Thus the month of April is very significant for Naveen. April is a Latin word which is derived from the Latin Aperire, meaning “to open” – which could be a reference to the opening or blossoming of flowers and trees, a common occurrence throughout the month of April in the northern hemisphere.

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