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CLEAN VICTORY

By this time, winning must have become a habit for the chief minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik. His party, the Biju Janata Dal, recorded a twin victory in the assembly and Lok Sabha polls, thus leaving no room for doubt about the political preference of the people of the state. This is Mr Patnaik’s fourth successive victory, and his party gets another term in office after being in power for the last 14 years. This is no mean achievement, given the way the political fortunes of other regional parties have changed for the worse in their respective states in this year’s elections. In fact, there were apprehensions that the BJD this time would have to contend with a strong anti-incumbency wave, before the results put a stop to all the naysaying. However, there are factors stronger than anti-incumbency that could have acted against Mr Patnaik. His government has been buffeted by a series of mining scams in recent months; the chit fund scandal has tainted it; there have been allegations of irregularities in the distribution of work under the Centre’s rural job scheme; the administration has been often accused of being controlled by bureaucrats. But the people were evidently left unfazed by all these. Even the overwhelming preference for Narendra Modi all over the country could not persuade the Odiya people to consider as their ruler any person other than the redoubtable Mr Patnaik.

However, it is not without reason that the BJD has won so unanimously. For one, Mr Patnaik has always been known for his ‘clean’ image, and that reputation stays intact, scams notwithstanding. The amazing alacrity his administration had shown in tackling disaster when Phailin had struck Odisha in October 2013 must have also gone a long way in ensuring future victory. Although there had been accusations of misappropriation of funds during the post-Phailin relief operations, the rehabilitation work has been laudable in general. Unlike the majority of Indian politicians, Mr Patnaik is not given to raising storm and fury — which invariably result in nothing — on every issue of national or regional interest. In this, he is an exception of whom the Odiya people must be proud. His quiet authority will be put to greater test from now on as he will have to wrangle for favours for his state at the national level with a party to which he had famously shown the door before the 2009 general elections.