Odisha BJD leader VK Pandian, Naveen Patnaik’s close aide, quits active politics after party defeat in Assembly polls

During the campaign, Pandian had asserted that he would quit politics if party president Patnaik did not become the chief minister of Odisha for the sixth consecutive time after the assembly elections.

ByPTI

Published Jun 09, 2024 | 7:03 PMUpdatedJun 09, 2024 | 7:03 PM

Odisha BJD leader VK Pandian, Naveen Patnaik’s close aide, quits active politics after party defeat in Assembly polls

Exactly six months and 13 days after joining politics, former bureaucrat VK Pandian on Sunday, 9 June, announced his withdrawal from active politics following the BJD’s drubbing in both the assembly and Lok Sabha polls

However, he said that he would keep Odisha in the core of his heart and ‘Guru Naveen Babu’ in his breath.

In a video message, Pandian said his only intention to join politics was to assist Naveen Patnaik, which is why he did not contest in the 2024 elections. He also apologised to the people and BJD leaders and workers if they held him responsible for the electoral loss.

“My intent in joining politics was only to assist Naveen Babu, and now I consciously decide to withdraw from active politics. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone on this journey. I am sorry if this campaign narrative against me played a part in BJD’s loss,” Pandian said.

During the campaign, Pandian had asserted that he would quit politics if party president Patnaik did not become the chief minister of Odisha for the sixth consecutive time after the assembly elections.

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‘Odisha in the core of my heart’

“You (BJP) say there is a BJP wave and a wave for change in Odisha, but I strongly say if the chief minister (Patnaik) does not become CM again, I will take ‘sanyas’ from politics,” Pandian had declared at a rally in Brajrajnagar, Jharsuguda district.

The BJP stormed to power in Odisha, ending the 24-year rule of the BJD, by winning 78 seats in the 147-member assembly.

The Patnaik-led party, on the other hand, bagged 51 seats, while the Congress won 14 constituencies, the CPI (M) one. The BJD failed to win any of the Lok Sabha seats in the state, with the BJP bagging 20 and the Congress one.

Defending his close aide, BJD president Naveen Patnaik on Saturday termed the ongoing criticisms against Pandian as “unfortunate” and praised him for doing an “excellent job.”

Patnaik also clarified that Pandian was not his successor.

“There has been some criticism of Pandian. This is unfortunate. He joined the party and has not held any post. He did not contest the elections from any constituency. I have always clearly said when asked about my successor that it is not Pandian. I repeat again that the people of Odisha will decide my successor.”

Announcing his decision, Pandian expressed his apologies to the entire Biju Parivar, including all the workers, and conveyed his heartfelt gratitude to the lakhs of BJD members with whom he was associated.

“I will always keep Odisha in the core of my heart and my Guru Naveen Babu in my breath and pray to Lord Jagannath for their well-being and prosperity,” Pandian said.

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‘An honour to work for Naveen Patnaik’

Reflecting on his background, Pandian mentioned that he came from a humble family and a small village, and his childhood dream was to join the IAS and serve the people, which Lord Jagannath made possible.

He also explained that he came to Odisha because his wife is from Kendrapara.

“From the day I set foot on the soil of Odisha, I have received immense love and affection from the people… from Dharamgarh to Rourkela to Mayurbhanj to Ganjam. I have tried to work very hard for the people,” he recalled.

Speaking about his entry into the power corridor, Pandian noted that 12 years ago, he joined the chief minister’s office (CMO).

“It was an honour to work for Naveen Patnaik. The experience and learning I had from him are for a lifetime. His grace, leadership, ethics, and above all, his love for the people of Odisha always inspired me,” the former IAS officer said.

Pandian mentioned that Patnaik’s expectations from him were to implement his vision for Odisha, which led to successes in health, education, poverty reduction, sports, investment, women empowerment, infrastructure, and temple and heritage projects.

“Working for the youth, school, and college children gave me great satisfaction,” Pandian said, adding that his own childhood memories of studying in a government school helped him implement the chief minister’s vision for school transformation under 5T.

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‘No desire for political post’

Recalling his efforts during the Covid pandemic, Pandian mentioned how he traveled to almost 30 districts to ensure that the health infrastructure was ready to serve the people.

“During this time, we faced two cyclones, and we worked very hard to save every precious life,” he said.

“I left the IAS, taking voluntary retirement, and joined the BJD to assist my mentor, Naveen Patnaik. My only intent was to help him, as anyone would do for their mentor or family. I would like to set straight certain perceptions and narratives,” he stated.

Pandian admitted that it might have been his shortcomings that he was not able to effectively counter some of the political narratives at the right time.

“I reiterate that I came into politics to help my mentor, Naveen Patnaik, ahead of the elections, and I had no desire whatsoever for a political post. Therefore, I was neither a candidate nor holding any post in the BJD,” he said.

Pandian also emphasised, “Till today, the only property I have is what I inherited from my grandparents. I or my immediate family have no other property anywhere in the world. My property statement when I joined the Indian Administrative Service remains the same as it is today after 24 years.”

Expressing satisfaction, he concluded by saying that the biggest earning in his lifetime has been the love, affection, and goodwill of Odisha.

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