A BJD supporter at the road show in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. Picture by Ashwinee Pati
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 20: An award from a news magazine in New Delhi to chief minister Naveen Patnaik as the "best administrator" in the country has come to the BJD as a chest-thumping opportunity to boost brand Naveen.
Thousands of party workers today turned up at the airport here to greet Naveen who returned from Delhi after receiving the award.
It became a show of strength by the party reminiscent of a similar turnout of workers and leaders when Naveen had rushed back to the city from the UK in the wake of a failed coup attempt against him by one of his confidants in 2012. The Opposition, though, has termed the event as a publicity stunt.
The entire one-and-half kilometre stretch from the airport to Naveen Nivas was dotted with the larger-than-life cut-outs of Naveen and slogans hailing the chief minister as a hero. Though the BJD had planned to make the show more colourful by bursting crackers and organising road shows, it scaled down the event following yesterday's accident involving Utkal Kalinga Express.
On his part, Naveen paid floral tribute to his father, Biju babu's statue at the airport. Party MLAs Sanjay Das Burma and Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak were seen strug-gling hard to ensure the safety of their chief minister in the crowd. Police commissioner Y.B. Khurania and deputy commissioner Satyabrata Bhoi had an equally tough time as well.
BJD supporters Biswajit Tripathy and Chinmay Rourtray had come to the airport from Jayadev Assembly constituency to congratulate Naveen. "Naveen is our hero. We are inspired by his honesty and simplicity," said Tripathy and Rourtray, both studying for their undergraduate degree.
Naveen acknowledged the love of people. "I would like to thank all the people who had come in such large numbers to greet me. We shall continue to strive to make Odisha the number one state in the country."
Naveen also made it clear that the BJD was always ready for the elections.
He was apparently referring to speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may advance the Lok Sabha elections to 2018.
However, the BJD's chest-thumping did not go down well with the BJP.
Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said: "This is a public stunt and an attempt to fool people. Naveen's credibility as an administrator has been exposed by the Supreme Court's observations in the mining scam."