By Harihar Swarup
Seeking to galvanize his party’s cadre ahead of the 2024 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, Biju Janata Dal President and five-term Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has said the BJD has the potential to serve the people of Odisha for next 100 years.
Naveen, 76, thus sent out a clear signal that there is not going to be any let up in BJD’s march ahead even as the party has already completed 22 years at the helm continuously under his leadership.
The regional party, which many thought would not survive long when it was founded on December, 1997 under the leadership of Naveen, then a beginner in politics, celebrated its silver jubilee in the pilgrim city Puri last week.
The son of the Odisha icon and ex-CM Biju Patnaik, Naveen formed the BJD along with a group of his father’s followers with the objective to carry forward Biju’s legacy. Naveen’s career in politics and his party’s growth went hand-in-hand.
The Doon School-educated Naveen not only led the BJD to become country’s most successful regional parties ever, but also remained “invincible” so far. The longest-serving Odisha CM has also taken on many detractors within the party over the years. In 2024 when Odisha goes to polls along with the Lok Sabha elections, Naveen will seek a sixth straight term for his party’s rule.
The crucial question, “After Naveen who?”, has returned to make rounds in the state’s political circles after BJD supremo’s 100-year pitch. “The party neither depends on one or two persons nor it will depend in future as BJD has become a social movement which carries forwards ‘asha, visvash and swabhiman (aspiration, faith and self-esteem)” the CM told the party’s silver–jubilee event.
Unlikely other regional parties, where successors are generally chosen from within the family, Naveen, who has remained a bachelor, has not anyone from the Biju family to take his mantle.
Although the CM has relied on bureaucrats and ex—officials while calling the shots on crucial issues himself, he has never allowed any party leader to be his second—in—command for a long period. He has kept rotating different leaders in key positions, which many believe is a well thought– out strategy to ensure “checks and balances within the party hierarchy”.
After the 2019 elections, the BJD has seen relative increase in elevation of young leaders, which is being attributed to Naveen’s current focus on creating a new leadership.
Senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya, one of the party’s founding members, said Naveen’s statement indicated that the party has a strong bond with the roots of Odisha. “Leadership is decided on the basis of the situation and circumstances of a particular time. Even Biju Babu has never promoted anyone from his family during his life time. But following his death, Naveen Babu enter politics and took the reigns”. (IPA Service)