V.K. Pandian is not my successor, says Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik

Despite an aggressive campaign mounted by BJP in the election, the Odisha CM has not ruled out the possibility of extending support to NDA following the poll results and said the party would judge as per requirement

Updated - May 31, 2024 11:53 am IST

Published - May 30, 2024 10:40 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and party leader V.K. Pandian release the party manifesto in Bhubaneswar on May 10, 2024.

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and party leader V.K. Pandian release the party manifesto in Bhubaneswar on May 10, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

In the backdrop of the Bharatiya Janata Party going all guns blazing by converting Odia asmita (pride) into a major poll plank targeting Tamil Nadu-born former bureaucrat V. K. Pandian, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday said his close confidante would not be his successor.

“I can’t understand these exaggerations. You have noticed he (Mr. Pandian) is not standing for this election. He is not my successor. I see all of these as exaggerations and falsehood,” Mr. Patnaik told a news agency in response to a question on whether he was grooming his close aide to be his successor.

When asked about Mr. Pandian acting as a gatekeeper and taking all decisions on his behalf, Mr. Patnaik clarified that “that is ridiculous. I have said this often before this is an old allegation. It holds no weight”.

‘People shall decide successor’

The Chief Minister maintained: “I have said the succession will be decided by the people of the State. That is the natural result of these things.”

On being attacked at a personal level for the first time in his over two decade-old career, the veteran politician said, “They (BJP) are getting more and more desperate particularly as their popularity is waning in the country.”

As a Chief Minister, Mr. Patnaik said that he has all the powers to decide about electoral promises during polls when asked if he was aware about promises being made by his party to the people before elections.

Chairing cabinet meetings

When inquired whether cabinet meetings are chaired by him or left to his cabinet colleagues, the CM said: “I have always chaired cabinet meetings. There is not a single cabinet meeting that I have not chaired.”

In a significant statement, Mr. Patnaik did not rule out the possibility of reconciling with the BJP after the elections. When asked if the acrimony between BJP and BJD in the election campaigning has shut the door for extending support if NDA needs it in the post-poll scenario, he said: “I have never shown acrimony to anyone in public life. When support is required, we will judge our appropriate position.”

“I see very handsome results in the State elections. We will form a solid government again in the State and in Parliament, we will be a very good majority,” said the BJD chief on the outcome of the ongoing elections.

On Modi’s remark

When he was drawn attention to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement in a public meeting that a special committee would be instituted to ascertain reasons behind his “deteriorating” health, Mr Patnaik said: “The PM has recently said I am a good friend of his. Wasn’t it his duty to dismiss rumours and pick up the telephone and ask me about them instead of announcing it in a public political meeting to garner votes.” In the same breath, he also spoke about the honest relationship he shares with Mr. Modi. “I have often picked up the phone and called the PM,” he pointed out.

On statements made by Assam Chief Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma during campaigning in Odisha, Mr. Patnaik said: “The people of Odisha are not used to guests coming to our State being so personally insulting and vindictive. He carried on a very unattractive election campaign in Odisha.”

Responding to the BJD chief’s clarification on choosing his successor, Mr. Sarma said in a post on X: “Naveen Babu’s successor is immaterial as Mr. Pandian already has a firm backdoor entry in running Odisha. He has pervasive control over the Chief Minister and Nabin Niwas. Naveen Babu failed to assure the people of Odisha that this will change.”

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