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Over-stressed? As Naveen Patnaik turns frail, Odisha 'moves closer' to leadership crisis

By Sudhansu R Das 

Not a single leader in Odisha is visible in the horizon who can replace Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He has ruled Odisha for nearly two and half decades. His father, Biju Patnaik, had built Odisha; he was a daring pilot who saved the life of Indonesia’s Prime Minister Sjahrir and President Sukarno when the Dutch army blocked their exit.
Biju Patnaik was involved in many daring military missions and used to carry nationalist leaders for secret meetings during the freedom struggle. He was undoubtedly a prime ministerial material in the Congress Party after Independence.
Biju Patniak had established ports, industries and educational institutions in Odisha. He never allowed his son, Naveen Pattnaik to appear in Odisha politics during his lifetime. When Janta Dal had a leadership vacuum, the leaders in Janta Dal brought Biju Patnaik’s son, Naveen Patnaik, a writer with Doon School background to lead the party.
People of Odisha loved and respected Biju Patnaik, and they showered their blessings on his son, Naveen Pattnaik also. The shadow of Biju Pattnaik could not hold Naveen Pattnaik longer and today Naveen has become a popular leader. His strong determination and political skill deceives his frail appearance. The State has witnessed rapid infrastructure development particularly road connectivity to remote villages. Bridges, flyovers, schools and colleges have mushroomed in Odisha.
Naveen Patnaik has built his own image which has become too tall for any other Odia leader to scale. Today, he is not physically fit to carry the leadership burden for a longer time; he struggles to walk and has stress on his face though he hides it with a benign smile. He has not built another strong Odia leader with a mass appeal.
He has not been tough with his own people who soil his image within his party with shadowy business deals. His government pays fat honorarium and other facilities to retired engineers and extension officers to check road projects and provide veterinary service to people when the state has many young unemployed graduates. He could not control the migration from villages to cities in Odisha which has crumbled city infrastructure.
Criminals from neighbouring States have made Odisha a happy hunting ground. Naveen Patnaik desperately needs to prop up a strong and capable Odia leader who can protect the interest of the State, create jobs to prevent massive migration and generate employment in rural areas. He is still far away from Biju Patnaik’s dream:
"In my dream of the 21st century for the State, I would have young men and women who put the interest of the State before them. They will have pride in themselves, confidence in themselves. They will not be at anybody's mercy, except their own selves. By their brains, intelligence and capacity, they will recapture the history of Kalinga."
It is not the responsibility of Naveen Patnaik alone to achieve the dream of Biju Patnaik; the leadership class in Odisha should rise above the narrow party politics and personal interest to save the interest of Odisha. At present, there is not a single leader in Odisha who is capable of building Odisha as per Biju Patnaik’s dream.
BJP with multiple factions in the state fails to give a strong credible leader to fill the leadership vacuum
The BJP with multiple factions in the State fails to give a strong credible leader to fill the leadership vacuum in near future. The emerging leader, the former IAS officer, BJP MP, Aparajita Sadangi has control over subjects, oratorical excellence and image to change the wind for BJP. But, she can’t win an election alone. She needs to win the support of the RSS workers at the grass root.
Other BJP leaders need the intellectual capacity to justify an alternate credible development vision before the people of Odisha which can out shine Naveen’s development vision based on infrastructure growth. The BJP’s central leaders from Odisha are not popular among the common Oriya people as they are not willing to live in Odisha and experience the hit and dust of Odisha politics; most of the time they remain in Delhi and wait for the BJP wind to blow in favor of them.
Political image is built over hard work, leadership skill and charisma which brings grass root level workers together to channel the anti establishment feeling to victory. The RSS daily Sakhas in Odisha which provided cushion to BJP have dwindled out; they are visible during Dushahara and in some events, organized by their central leadership.
The RSS no longer appeals to the young generation in Odisha despite their change of uniform from short pants to trouser; dress in fact does not attract youth; the tender minds are drawn to people who have intellectual capacity, dedication, commitment to nation building and a clear sense of purpose.
The burden of the ever expanding BJP has drained RSS energy since BJP could not build its own selfless cadres in Odisha. The top RSS leader Asit Basu who had control over the entire Sangh outfits died in a road accident 10 years back.
The Congress and other parties are nowhere close to BJD’s popularity; they also face a serious leadership crisis. Family politics and the shadow of Supremo in political parties has created an alarming situation not only in Odisha but in most parts of the country; it bleeds democracy and governance.

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