BJD has always been fighting for the rights of Odisha: V K Pandian

Mr V K Pandian, bureaucrat turned BJD leader and close confidant of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen
Patnaik, on Thursday claimed that the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections in the state are one-sided and
the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) will be a clear winner. In an interview with The Statesman, he said he considers
Mr Patnaik as his “Guru” while responding to questions on a range of issues.

BJD has always been fighting for the rights of Odisha: V K Pandian

TS: How did you develop a connection with Odisha? How did you make Odisha your “Karmabhoomi” despite it not being your “Janmabhoomi”?
These things happen with destiny. Nobody would be sure when he gets into IAS and comes to serve in a different state. It is not a choice that you make, but once you come here, the way you work becomes your identity because you are new to this place. You connect with people if you are honest. If you are hardworking, and if you put your heart and soul into the job, then people start liking you. That gives motivation to work harder. That’s how it becomes your “Karmabhoomi”. I have been working here for almost 24 years now and wherever I worked I have got lots of appreciation from the people. The people of Odisha really appreciate good and honest work. So, I have a very good career here. I was born and brought up in Tamil Nadu but I did most of my studies in Delhi.

TS: In politics, many people have a “Guru”. Is it fair to say that you consider Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik your ”Guru” and yourself as his “Shishya (student)”?
Yes, I consider Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik ji as my guru, mentor, philosopher, guide, and teacher.

TS: You joined the BJD last year, leaving behind your career and bureaucracy. What motivated you to take this step, did you have a perfect time in your mind to join the party?
I strongly believe in destiny. How I came here is also a destiny. I was never planning to join BJD or any other political party. I was not into politics. When I was touring 30 districts of Odisha on Naveen Babu’s directive, I found a very strong emotional connect with the people and the way the people were connecting with me. The chief minister also saw the video footage of this and both of us decided and he asked me to join the party and serve the people. One of the main objectives of my joining the BJD was to help the chief minister. I have an emotional connect with Naveen Babu, so, I felt I should help him.


TS: Was the chief minister happy when you told him about your decision that you want to enter politics?
it was a very organic decision. The CM realised that there is a strong connect with the people which is why the BJP is scared and has started attacking the chief minister politically. The Opposition tried its level best to break my self-confidence. But people’s love and affection kept me going and Naveen Babu saw how people were connecting with me. See, constructive criticism comes from those who are your well-wishers. Those who have vested interests will always have negative criticism. My identity in Odisha is that “he works”. Only my work will speak. And the honourable chief minister believes in this philosophy. The Odisha chief minister speaks very little – let the work speak and don’t take stress. If people appreciate your work, you will be blessed by them.

TS:How has been your experience so far in Odisha, any memorable moments of “Rath Yatra” during your tenure and any fond memories you would like to share?
There are hundreds of memories. Every moment during the “Rath Yatra” is magical. When the Parikrama was going on, it was the most memorable moment. If you are in hearts of people, then people lead your way.

TS: Do you think CAA was a masterstroke in the 2019 elections and PM Modi is trying to take new avatar in the 2024 elections? What is your take on it?
CAA had not impacted Odisha so much. I don’t have a concrete idea about CAA, but if it is going to help any Indian citizen, one should be happy and above politics and that is my take on it. Even if one citizen of India gets benefits, irrespective of his caste and religion, then amendment should be done. The country is always above politics, always.

TS: As a former bureaucrat, how do you see the role of Central agencies like the ED and the CBI amid the current scenario where allegation comes from the Opposition that the PM is misusing these agencies? What is your take on it?
We have a sound judicial system. We have a judiciary, and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to take care of any excesses by any of these agencies. I fully trust the judiciary and we all should trust the judiciary and they should do justice. People have lots of faith in the judiciary.

TS: How is the BJD planning to tackle the challenge posed by the bjp and Congress in the state? Is there an intense battle on the cards?
See, the battle is intense but it is one-sided. The BJD brand of politics is service to the people of Odisha and the BJD won’t depend on symbolism. The BJD is always dependent on solid work. We have transformed all the high schools in the state. We have the highest manufacturing investments in the country. We are the only state that provides 90 per cent scholarships to the students who are in the colleges. Whether we are able to double the farmer’s income? These are the criteria by which we fight the elections. Thousands of heritage sites have been restored in the state. In the health sector, we are doing great. The “Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY)” Scheme is a game- changer as it provides assured health insurance to 90 per cent of the population of the state. Education, health and irrigation are the planks on which the BJD fights the elections. The BJP is fond of sensationalising issues based on religion and caste. The BJP is not futuristic at all and they just want electoral victory.

TS: What are the challenges faced by Odisha currently?
Odisha is at the take off stage. We are really working hard on investment. India has a huge potential to become a manufacturing hub. Our aim is to get a maximum number of manufacturing investments. You should have political and financial stability to get investments in the state. Odisha is the highest revenue surplus state in the country. The chief minister’s dream is to build new Odisha by empowering the youth.

TS: Why do you think the alliance between the BJD and the BJP didn’t materialise?
I would say there was no alliance in the first place. In a democracy, you know the people’s will by the votes. The BJP lost all the Zilla parishad elections. This shows people are angry with them. The BJP government has always neglected Odisha. The BJP remembers Odisha only during elections and after five years, they forget. Only during the vote, they come and shed crocodile tears as our honourable CM says. Odisha’s greatest leader will be Naveen Babu and his popularity is the highest in the country. The BJD is always fighting for the rights of Odisha. The Odisha people and our chief minister feel they are sidelined by the Centre.

TS: What is the secret of the chief minister’s longevity in politics? What do you think has sustained him all these years?
Very simple, his love for the people, and people’s love for him… His nature of politics is not like a politician. He believes politics is a medium of serving the people and not catching hold of the chair. That people appreciate.

TS: The BJP says VK Pandian is Odisha’s chief minister’s successor. Can you see yourself as next Odisha chief minister or do you have ambitions of becoming the chief minister?
I should just laugh as the BJP has come out with many theories so far. I am here to help Chief Minister Naveen Babu to win the elections and I am not even contesting. I leave my destiny to Lord Jagannath and Naveen Babu and the chief minister has always said that his successor would be chosen by the people of Odisha and that is his stand always.

TS: If you had to pick another state as a model or a leader whom would you choose?
There are so many leaders I would not like to name any right now. Perhaps after the elections, I would say. But my all-time favourite icon is Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, in my IAS interview, I said the same.

TS: Do you believe that the BJP will secure a majority of over 400 seats in this Lok Sabha elections?
No, I don’t believe. Most of India doesn’t believe it. It is just the narrative they are giving to boost their cadre. And they (the BJP) are masters in giving narratives without a base, they do. For example, in West Bengal, in the last elections, the BJP said they were sweeping the elections, but they were swept away by “Mamata Didi” (West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee). The same thing they (the BJP) did in Karnataka. The BJP said we are coming with 150-160 seats in Karnataka and ended up with 50-60 seats. There is a huge gap between BJP’s narrative and reality. We are humbly saying that Naveen Babu will get ¾ majority in the elections..