V.K. Pandian, once a powerful figure in the BJD government, retires from active politics

Apologising for the role that the BJP’s campaign narrative against him played in the BJD’s loss, Mr. Pandian insists he had no desire for power, but only sought to help his mentor Naveen Patnaik

Updated - June 09, 2024 10:06 pm IST

Published - June 09, 2024 04:05 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with V.K. Pandian. V.K. Pandian has decided to quit active politics following the party’s defeat in the Odisha Assemble Elections. 

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with V.K. Pandian. V.K. Pandian has decided to quit active politics following the party’s defeat in the Odisha Assemble Elections.  | Photo Credit: ANI

V.K. Pandian, close aide of outgoing Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, quit active politics on Sunday, following the Biju Janata Dal’s defeat in the Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections.

Mr. Pandian made the announcement after he was held responsible for the regional party’s debacle in the polls. The Bharatiya Janata Party had built its campaign against the BJD on the theme of ‘Odia asmita (pride)‘, highlighting the influence of the Tamil Nadu-born former IAS officer, and suggesting that he was poised to succeed Mr. Patnaik. During the campaign, Mr. Pandian had promised to retire from politics if the BJD failed to win.

“My intent of joining politics was only to assist Naveen Babu and now consciously I decide 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 the BJD’s loss,” Mr. Pandian said, in a post on social media.

Political narratives

“I would like to set straight certain perceptions and narratives,” he said. “Perhaps it has been my shortcoming that I have not been able to effectively counter some of the political narratives at the right time. I reiterate, I came to politics to help my mentor Naveen Patnaik ahead of grueling elections and I had no desire whatsoever for a specific political post or power. That was why I was neither a candidate nor was holding any post in the Biju Janata Dal.”

“I apologise to the entire Biju pariwar (family) including all the cadres for this. My heartfelt gratitude to lakhs and lakhs of Biju pariwar members whom I was associated with. I will always keep Odisha in the core of my heart and my guru Naveen Babu in my breath and pray Lord Jagannath for their wellbeing and prosperity,” he said.

V.K. Pandian quits active politics | Video Credit: Special Arrangement

‘Worked hard for Odisha’

Narrating his journey from a Tamil Nadu village to his current situation, Mr. Pandian said, “I come from a very humble family and from a small village. My dream since childhood was to join IAS and serve the people. Lord Jagannath made it happen. Because of my family from Kendrapara, I came to Odisha.”

Mr. Pandian’s wife, Sujata Karthikeyan, hails from Odisha. Both are members of the IAS batch of the year 2000. Though Mr. Pandian had initially been assigned to the Punjab cadre, he came to Odisha on spousal grounds.

“From the day I set my foot in the soil of Odisha, I have received immense love and affection from the people of Odisha, from Dharmagarh to Rourkela to Mayurbhanj to Ganjam. I have tried to work very hard for the people,” he continued.

‘Implemented CM’s vision’

“About 12 years ago, I joined the Chief Minister’s office. It was an honour for me to work for Naveen Patnaik. The experience and learning I had from him is for a lifetime. His grace, ethics, and above all, his love for the people of Odisha always inspired me,” remarked Mr. Pandian.

“[Mr. Patnaik’s] expectation from me was to implement his vision. He successfully crossed many milestones in health, education, poverty reduction, sports, investment, women’s empowerment, infrastructure and also in temple and heritage projects,” said the bureaucrat-turned-politician. “Working for the youth and school and college children gave me immense satisfaction. My own childhood memory of studying in a government school helped me to implement the CM’s vision of school transformation,” he said in his parting message.

Highlighting his efforts during the pandemic, he said, “During COVID, we travelled to almost all 30 districts to ensure the health infrastructure is ready to the people. In this time, we faced two super cyclones, Fani and Phailin. We really worked hard to save every precious life.”

‘No property gains’

Stating that he had taken voluntary retirement from IAS and joined BJD to assist Mr. Patnaik, Mr. Pandian said, “My only intent was to help him as anyone would do for his mentor and family. For the last 12 years, I have tried to work from early in the morning till midnight keeping Odisha and Naveen Babu as my focus.”

On the public perception that he has amassed massive amounts of property, he said, “Till today, the only property I have is what I inherited from my grandparents. I and my immediate family have no other property anywhere in the world. My property statements when I joined IAS remain the same even today after 24 years.”

“The biggest earning in my lifetime has been the love and affection and goodwill of the people of Odisha,” he said, ending on an emotional note.

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