Naveen Patnaik - true inheritor of his father’s legacy (Profile)

May 21st, 2009 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bhubaneswar, May 21 (IANS) Naveen Patnaik came into politics some 12 years ago to unite leaders and revive the fortune of a party in Orissa that was in shambles after the death of his legendary father Biju Patnaik.
Today Naveen Patnaik has not only proved that he is the true inheritor of his father’s legacy, but has also managed to win the hearts of millions in this impoverished state by establishing himself as one of India’s strongest and most charismatic leaders.

The bachelor politician known for his friendship with Jacqueline Onassis, Mick Jagger and other jetsetters was sworn in as the state chief minister Thursday for the third consecutive term - but this time on his own strength.

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) beat anti-incumbency and secured 103 seats in the 147-member assembly and 14 of state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats in the just-concluded general elections, against 61 and 11 respectively in 2004.

The sweeping victory came as a surprise particularly after he suddenly split from his 11-year-old political ally, the Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP), in March over seat-sharing arrangements.

The BJD-BJP combine, which broke up a month ahead of the elections, had ruled the state for two consecutive terms. But Patnaik’s gamble of going it alone paid dividends.

By saying that he broke away from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over the communal conflict in Kandhamal district that rocked the state last year - and in which 38 people, mostly Christians, were killed - Patnaik successfully managed to convey that he wanted development and peace but was being hobbled by his allies.

His journey to success was not easy. His political life began when he was elected to the 11th Lok Sabha in 1997 in a by-election from Aska, his father’s traditional seat, on a Janata Dal ticket.

A year later he formed BJD - a regional party named after his father. The BJD forged alliance with the NDA led by Bharatiya Janata Party in 1998.

Patnaik, popularly known to his friends as Pappu, got elected to the Lok Sabha for the second time in 1998 and became the leader of his party in parliament.

He was elected for the third term in 1999 and became a cabinet minister in the central government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

He moved to state politics and became the state chief minister of the BJD-BJP coalition government in 2000. For the second time he became chief minister of the coalition government in 2004.

Patnaik has maintained a clean image and is known for his crusade against corruption. He is also known for his simplicity and devotion to work. He has dropped at least ten ministers in the past nine years after allegations of corruption against them or on charges of wrongdoing, major or minor.

He never appeared to lead a life of luxury although he spent many years abroad before his father’s death. A white dhoti-kurta and a pair of slippers were his routine wear.

Born on Oct 16, 1946 at Cuttack, 26 km from here, Patnaik, the second son Biju Patnaik - did his schooling at Welham Preparatory School for Boys in Dehradun and then at The Doon School till he passed out with a Senior Cambridge Certificate when he was 17.

He excelled in history, oil painting and athletics in school. He went on to Delhi University where he graduated in arts at the age of 20.

Patnaik has travelled extensively in India and abroad. He is a founder member of the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (Intach).

He is the author of three coffee table books - “A Second Paradise”, a book on Indian culture, “A Desert Kingdom”, about the princely states of Rajasthan, and “The Garden of Life”, which deals with India’s environment and traditional knowledge.

One of these books was edited by Jacqueline Onassis. All his books have been published in India, Britain and the US. He has also written several articles on culture and environment.

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