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Odisha: VK Pandian, close aide of Naveen Patnaik, quits active politics after BJD’s defeat in the state, says he has no desire for any political post

Last year in October, VK Pandian took voluntary retirement from the civil services and was immediately given a cabinet minister equivalent post in the Odisha government.

On Sunday (9th June), 5T Chairman and Biju Janata Dal leader, VK Pandian, who is considered the closest aide of outgoing Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, announced his decision to quit active politics. In a video statement, Pandian also apologised to BJD workers stating that he is sorry if the campaign narrative against him played a part in BJD’s loss. Notably, the BJP, which has come to power for the first time in Odisha, had fought the election on the issue of Odisha Asmita (pride). It kept Tamil-born IAS-turned-BJD leader VK Pandian at the centre of its attack and gained success in ousting Naveen Patnaik who had been the state CM since 2000.  

The development also comes after Naveen Patnaik gave a statement after the party’s electoral defeat. Addressing the media, Patnaik reiterated that Pandian was not his “successor” and added that the people of Odisha would decide about the same. 

In his video statement, VK Pandian said, “(From) the day I set foot on the soil of Odisha, I have received immense love and affection from the people of Odisha.” He emphasised that he has tried to work very hard for the people across the state. He added that it has been an honour to work for Naveen Patnaik. 

Pandian further stated, “The experience and learning I got is for a lifetime. His grace, leadership, ethics, and above all, the love for the people of Odisha always inspired me. His expectation from me was to implement his vision for Odisha and we successfully crossed many milestones in health, education, poverty reduction, ports, investment, women empowerment, infrastructure, and also in temple and heritage projects.”

Pandian noted, “My only intent was to help him, as anyone would do for his mentor and family. I would like to set straight certain perceptions and narratives. Perhaps, it has been my shortcoming that I have not been able to effectively counter some of these political narratives. I reiterate that I came to politics to help my mentor Naveen Patnaik ahead of the gruelling elections and I had no desire, whatsoever, for a specific political post or power. That’s why I was neither a candidate nor was I holding any post in Biju Janata Dal.”  

VK Pandian added that he worked hard for 12 years with a focus on Naveen Patnaik and Odisha. 

“The only property I have is what I inherited from my grandparents. I or my immediate family have no other property anywhere in the world. The biggest earning in my lifetime has been the love, affection, and goodwill of the people of Odisha. My intent of joining politics was only to assist Naveen Babu and I have consciously decided to withdraw myself from active politics. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone in this journey. I am sorry if this campaign narrative against me has had a part to play in BJD’s loss. I apologise to the entire Biju parivar, including all workers. My heartfelt gratitude to lakhs of Biju parivar members I am associated with,” Pandian added.

VK Pandian and BJP’s Odisha Asmita plank against BJD

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had launched scathing attacks on the BJD accusing it of running a proxy government. It stated that because of Naveen Patnaik’s deteriorating health, VK Pandian has assumed power without any accountability. BJP kept the issue of Odisha Asmita (pride) at the center of its poll campaign and asserted that Tamil-born bureaucrat turned politician Pandian couldn’t be the Odisha CM. It added that if they come to power, they will appoint an Odia person as the Chief Minister of the state.   

BJP’s poll plank on restoring the Odia pride stemmed from the fact that VK Pandian was positioning himself as the political heir of Naveen Patnaik. While Pandian did not contest the elections, he is the chairman of ‘5T’ and the Nabin Odisha programs, apart from being the close associate of Odisha CM Patnaik. 5T is an Odisha government initiative by CM Patnaik to bring in 5Ts (transparency, transformation, teamwork, technology, and time management) across govt bodies.

Last year in October, VK Pandian took voluntary retirement from the civil services and was immediately given a cabinet minister equivalent post in the Odisha government. He had been the ‘right-hand’ man of CM Naveen Patnaik for over a decade. He was an Odisha cadre IAS officer from the 2000 batch who hails originally from Tamil Nadu. 

In 2011, Pandian was appointed as the Private Secretary of CM Naveen Patnaik. Though he was said to be very close to the CM and was widely seen as his ‘right hand’ man, Pandian rose to prominence in Odisha’s political and executive scenario after 2019, when he was appointed as the ‘5T secretary’. 

Pandian’s increasing influence and power projection in Odisha politics was raising many eyebrows as opposition leaders questioned how a serving IAS officer could be projected as the CM’s envoy and ‘replacement’, flying around in helicopters and being welcomed with garlands and flowers by the public and party leaders wherever he goes. Many opposition leaders had challenged Pandian to quit his job and join active politics.

Pandian, who became the “face” of the Naveen Patnaik government, openly declared in public meetings that he was there to meet people on behalf of CM Patnaik. 

CM Patnaik, who is 77, is not very physically active and does not step out of the CM residence very often. His alleged ‘deteriorating’ health prompted the BJP to assert that the Chief Minister was not seeking a fresh mandate for his government but rather for his Tamil-born successor Pandian. 

Following the electoral defeat, Naveen Patnaik held a conversation with reporters in Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneshwar where he categorically asserted that VK Pandian is not his “successor”. 

Patnaik said, “I would like to say that Mr. Pandian has also worked and helped in health, education, sports, and our programme of temple restoration. Mr Pandian joined the party but has not had any posts. I have always clearly said that when they asked me about my successor, I said clearly that it was not Mr. Pandian. I repeat it. The people of Odisha will decide my successor.”

Following these developments, VK Pandian released a video statement announcing that he is quitting active politics. 

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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