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Is Naveen a Victim of Second Year Itch Syndrome?

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Dhrutikam Mohanty*

Odisha government has plunged into a festive mood. Almost every day, the Information and Public Relations (I&PR) department was releasing full page advertisements in the newspapers published from the capital city in the last three days showcasing the success of different pro-people programmes initiated by the government. This consciously designed propaganda aims at convincing people; really everyone is happy in ‘Naveen Raj’. Reason: Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government completed the second year of its fourth consecutive term on May 21.

Is Naveen really content and unperturbed these days? Perception may differ, but what we are witnessing is, the Chief Minister is riddled with a host of issues. Being the leader of the House, he failed to prevent the Opposition from stalling the Assembly leading to a premature conclusion of the budget session. State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sanjay Das Burma and Justice M.M.Das, the head of the commission of inquiry on chit fund scam added trouble for Naveen on the political front. The Opposition demanded the removal of Das Burma, who has allegedly taken a luxury vehicle from a chit fund company and Justice Das’ remarks who stated people became victims of Ponzi firms due to their greed and the government can do a little in this regard, in a function organized by BJD’s legal front. This kicked up a political storm across the state. CM has also felt the heat of strike of college teachers, farmer unrest across the state after alleged farmer suicides earlier this year. Ongoing acute drinking water crisis also supplemented his worries. Further, the Chief Minister can’t remain aloof from the crisis arising out of the perilous condition of Jagamohana (the prayer hall) in the Jagannath temple in Puri which requires immediate repair. He has to handle the issue with utmost care as his government was faced with wide criticism from a cross section of society for alleged mismanagement during Nabakalebara festival last year.

Interestingly, the second year of his third term as Chief Minister was also not free from such crises and worries. His third term began on 21st May, 2009 and his second year, 2011, greeted Naveen with expose of Rs. 700 crore dal scam in the state. The furore led to the sacking of the then Women and Child Development Minister Pramila Mallick. Besides, he initiated action against top officials as a face-saving exercise. Notably, WCD department had procured and supplied substandard quality dal to primary schools under the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme, Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) and Emergency Feeding Programme (EFP). The episode had created a political whirlwind across the state. Among other issues, Red rebels took the opportunity to grind their own axe and compelled Naveen to be on his knees. They kidnapped the then Malkangiri Collector R.Vineel Krishna and a junior engineer, which was an open challenge to the authority of government. Maoists put forward 14 demands to secure their release and the government had to give in to their demands. The later part of Naveen’s second year further witnessed expose of multi-million rupee mining scam in Odisha. The Opposition alleged Naveen government allowed mineral smugglers to plunder Odisha to the tune of Rs 3 lakh crore, giving birth to the biggest scam in the history of independent India.

Again taking a reverse gear to the second year of his second term i.e., on 16th May 2004 when Naveen began his second innings as Chief Minister, he also faced similar predicaments. In the second year of this term he witnessed such an ugly incident, which is still considered as one of the scariest occurrences in Navin Raj, that is infamous as Kalinga Nagar massacre. On 2nd January 2006, police opened fire at participants of a protest rally by local tribals against alleged takeover and seizure of their land by a private steel plant. While16 people died on the spot, four more died in the hospital, and a police constable was also killed in the clash. This incident created hue and cry across the country and grabbed national attention overnight. The state government ordered a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge of Orissa High Court. But the tribal organizations retorted with an economic blockade, which continued for 13 months. The government didn’t dare to lift the blockade even after a High Court order. This incident ushered a negative impact on the industrial growth of the state in the long term.

Last but not the least: the second year of his first term was no different either. Naveen Patnaik had taken oath as Chief Minister on 5th March 2000 with much fanfare which did not last for long. In 2002, he faced first ever open revolt within his party. Out of ten, six Lok Sabha MPs of BJD  broke away from the party and sought recognition from the then Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi as being the ‘real’ BJD parliamentary party members in a letter dated September 17, 2002. BJD’s stalwart MPs like Prasanna Patsani, Prabhat Samantray, Kumudini Patnaik, Jagannath Mallick, Prasanna Acharya and Bhartruhari Mahatab teamed-up and elected Prasanna Acharya as leader of the parliamentary party in place of Union Minister Arjun Charan Sethi and nominated Bhartruhari Mahatab as the party’s Chief Whip. Rebels also tried to divide BJD legislative party in the state, which had 70 members at that time. Their strategy seemed to be aimed at taking over the party’s leadership and dislodging Naveen Patnaik from the posts of BJD president and Chief Minister. This political crisis had emerged as a major challenge to Naveen’s authority in the party.

Intriguingly, it wasn’t an isolated case with Naveen alone. The second year itch syndrome was also here in national politics. The fact is since the Congress monopoly in Indian politics ended with the 1967 Lok Sabha elections, every Prime Minister who has ruled a full term has been confronted with disaster after two years. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V.Narasimha Rao, A.B.Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh, all have faced troubles, crises, and inconveniences during the second year of their terms. So, will it be justified to say that the second year itch syndrome is a prominent feature in Indian politics and Naveen Patnaik is no exception either?

 

*Dhrutikam Mohanty is a senior journalist and is currently working as Editor of Cine Sambad. He may be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of www.odishasuntimes.com