Bhubaneswar, Aug. 19: Naveen Nivas is back to being the forbidding fortress that it used to be before May 31, the day its owner, the chief minister of Odisha, returned to the city from London in the wake of a failed coup attempt against him.
The BJD leaders, who thronged it for the next two weeks much to the disbelief of old-timers who had not seen Naveen Patnaik entertain them ever before, have disappeared once again. Only a few, if any, are called by Naveen who, having tided over the crisis that threatened to throw his party and government into chaos, is his assertive self again.
The change in him is also visible to the secretariat employees, who only till a few weeks ago had found him interacting with them with a kind of insouciance they had not seen before. A liftman, who often takes the chief minister to his third-floor office in the Sachivalaya building, said: “He seems to have become reserved again. Though he still responds to my greetings, he is no more quite as free as he had become in the past two months.”
Sources in the BJD said the change that had been witnessed in Naveen’s behaviour in the wake of May 29 coup attempt against him had been dictated by circumstances. “He had become unsure of himself and wanted to make friends with everybody. But, that was not his natural self, which is slightly aloof. He likes to maintain distance from ordinary party leaders and workers,” said a BJD leader, adding that now that the crisis was over he was getting back to his old self again.
What is more, Naveen now seems keen to prove that he is capable of taking decisions on his own. This he proved with the recent ministry rejig when each ministers was picked by him.
For once, there is also no number two either in the government or in the party though Prasanna Acharya, with the finance portfolio, can claim to be the next most important man in the ministry after the chief minister.
The change in Naveen was also evident at a recent Iftar party organised by the BJD minority cell where he maintained a dignified distance from the party leaders. Not more than 20 MLAs and ministers turned up at the venue, where the chief minister spoke and ate little. The impression Naveen gave was that of a leader who was not willing to be one among the equals.
Sources in the party also attributed the change to another reason. They said that while Naveen had grown in confidence after tiding over the crisis, he has received crucial intelligence inputs about a large number of party MLAs from whom he would like to maintain a distance.
“Intelligence reports suggest that the image of BJD MLAs in several parts of the state has taken a knock. This may oblige him to replace them with new faces in the next elections. In fact, preliminary work in this regard has already begun. Mixing much with the party MLAs under these circumstances can be dicey,” said a senior BJD leader.
Sources also said the chief minister was determined to handpick candidates in the next elections for which preparations have begun.
“He may drop a number of MLAs. But, he is going to be firm in the matter as he wants to ensure that his party makes it four times in a row in the state,” said a senior party leader.