Blaming V.K. Pandian for BJD’s loss in 2024 elections unfortunate, says party supremo Naveen Patnaik

Watch: Blaming V.K. Pandian for BJD’s loss in 2024 elections unfortunate, says party supremo Naveen Patnaik
| Video Credit: PTI

“Having been defeated after long time, we must always take the verdict of people gracefully”, remarks five-time CM 

Updated - June 08, 2024 06:16 pm IST

Published - June 08, 2024 04:25 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

With bureaucrat-turned-politician V.K. Pandian under fire for Biju Janata Dal’s defeat in 2024 elections, outgoing Chief Minister and party supremo Naveen Patnaik on Saturday came to the defence of his close aide, calling the criticism unfortunate.

Mr. Patnaik has been meeting party leaders ever since declaration of election results on June 4 and instructing them to keep playing constructive role in Opposition. Many senior leaders also met at his residence- Naveen Niwas on Saturday.

“It has also come to my notice about some criticism of Mr. Pandian. This is unfortunate. As an officer he did excellent job in many fields, helping in two major cyclones and COVID-19 epidemic in our State in past 10 years,” said the BJD supremo.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. File

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. File | Photo Credit: ANI

“After this good work, he retired from bureaucracy and joined my party and contributed with excellent work. He is person of integrity and honesty and should be remembered for that,” Mr. Patnaik said defending him resolutely.

“I would also like to add that Mr. Pandian has helped in health, education, sports and in our programme of temple restorations. Mr. Pandian had joined the party and not held any post. He did not fight in these elections from any constituencies,” he remarked.

When asked about reasons behind BJD’s first defeat in past 24 years, Mr. Patnaik said “that is in the people’s hand. In a democracy, you have to either win or lose. So having been defeated after long time, we must always take the verdict of people gracefully. I always said that 4.5 crore people of Odisha are my family and I will continue to serve them in whichever way I can.”

“I would like to repeat again that my deep gratitude is for people of my State for blessing me time and time again and permitting me to serve them. We have tried to do excellent job and we have much to be proud of in our government and in our party,” he asserted.

On question of his likely successor, the five-time-CM said, “I always clearly said Mr. Pandian is not my successor. People of Odisha will decide my successor.”

According to political commentators, Bharatiya Janata Party effectively built its main poll plank around the theme of ‘Odia Asmita’ (pride), highlighting the dominant role of Mr. Pandian in both government and BJD affairs. The BJP’s aggressive campaign on this issue paid rich dividend and helped break the regional party’s 24-year winning streak and lead to the BJP’s sweeping victory in the Lok Sabha elections.

During the campaign, the leaders of the BJD found themselves side-lined as Mr. Pandian, along with the party supremo, took centre-stage. Moreover, the Tamil Nadu-born former bureaucrat dominated the campaign more prominently than the five-time Chief Minister. This gave the impression that the seasoned CM was being overshadowed and reduced to an ordinary politician, which did not sit well with the public. The perception that Mr. Pandian was poised to take over mantle from Mr. Patnaik gained traction among the electorates. The Odia pride and strong anti-incumbency sentiments created a powerful combination, leading to the downfall of the 24-year-old regime. Since results were out, Mr. Pandian has not been seen in public like his past routine appearances in party affairs.

The BJP has won 78 seats securing a simple majority in 147-member Odisha while the dominant regional party had to content with 51 seats. The BJP has swept Lok Sabha elections winning 20 out 21 seats.

About his health, the septuagenarian leader said, “I want to categorically say that my health has always been fine and continues to be so. You have seen in the last month I had done hectic campaigning in the heat and that should be enough to give a verdict my health.”

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