Naveen on top of game at 71

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik appears to be in a combative mood, drawing the battle lines firmly with the BJP as he turns 71 on Monday.

By Ashutosh Mishra in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 16.10.17
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Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik appears to be in a combative mood, drawing the battle lines firmly with the BJP as he turns 71 on Monday.

The realisation having dawned that 2019 is going to be a battle between his party, BJD, and a resurgent BJP, he is no more blowing hot and cold towards the saffron outfit, a habit that in the past had sent confusing signals to his cadres.

Now it's an all-out war with general Naveen leading from the front. Launching the BJD's Jana Sampark Yatra from a Bhubaneswar slum on October 2, he fired a warning salvo at his enemy.

"Some parties (read BJP) are indulging in malicious propaganda. People will give them a fitting reply," said Naveen as he also targeted the Centre for treating Odisha in a step-motherly fashion, not conceding its demand for being treated as a special category state.

As if his own attacks on the BJP and the NDA government were not enough, he deployed one of his most experienced ministers, Damodar Rout, on October 12 to debunk the Centre's claim about BJP-ruled states being better than others in the country. This was followed by the BJD Dalit Cell's demonstration against atrocities on Dalits in the BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. The party's Dalit cell chief, former minister Bishnu Das, even expressed his willingness to campaign against the BJP in the upcoming Gujarat elections.

All this is in sharp contrast to the past when on the instructions of the chief minister, the BJD had lent the NDA a helping hand in getting the controversial Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha in May 2016. Hoping to gain by maintaining a cordial relationship with the BJP, Naveen's party had also extended support to the NDA's presidential nominee, Ram Nath Kovind who went on to become the President.

In the wake of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar returning to the NDA fold, speculation was rife that Naveen would do the same. But such hopes diminished with the increasing aggression of the state BJP, which seems to be on the upswing since winning 297 zila parishad seats in the panchayat polls last February.