Perhaps, fortune played to his favour in the form of a sympathy wave when his father and veteran leader Biju Patnaik died in 1998. Naveen Patnaik, Odisha's fifth time Chief Minister, however, is to be credited for his journey and growth ever since. The one-time author is now a seasoned politician and respected leader among the masses of Odisha.
Patnaik, the alumni of prestigious Doon School and Kirori Mal College, Delhi, stayed away from politics for most part of his life. When 81-year-old Biju Patnaik passed away, the scholarly Naveen was a natural choice for the Janata Dal.
Patnaik was quick in his rise in politics. The fact that he was neither fluent in Odia nor an orator in any language, or the fact that he hardly knew the intricacies of Odisha's politics was never a deterrent to his political growth. With a simplicity which almost echoed a Gandhian way of life, he strove ahead to pull his state up from the depths of poverty.
A year after his entry into active politics, he removed himself from the Janata Dal and established the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Supported by the BJP, the BJD's performance in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections earned him a post in the A B Vajpayee cabinet.
Two years later, the BJD came to power in Odisha and Naveen Patnaik became the state's Chief Minister. With Naveen at its helm the party has not turned back ever since. BJD has secured majority of seats in every Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections held in the 21st century. This time the party won 112 out of the 146 seats in the Assembly elections and 12 out of 20 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
The raison d'etre for this stint is simple, he was a champion for inclusive development. He identified the lacunae of the state and addressed it with scientific detail.
Though the state sported the title of being the poorest in the country with
over 54 per cent of the population falling below poverty line in 2004, it managed to reduce its poverty levels by almost 20 per cent by 2012.
Under Patnaik's effective stewardship, Odisha has emerged into a state with surplus rice from a state of tragic food security situation.
The gross state domestic product (GSDP) of Odisha has almost doubled from Rs 2.31 trillion to 4.16 trillion from the year 2011-12 to 2017-18. The compound annual growth rate during the period was 10.3 per cent. An analysis by IBE, propounds that the state's investor-friendly policies have played a key role in producing these results.
Besides being one of the top 10 states accounting for the highest number of MSME enterprises, the state has also drafted policies to promote start-ups. In 2018, the state contributed 34.3 per cent of the mineral production in India, the largest in terms of value.
The extensive focus of the Patnaik government on building roads and other infrastructure especially to tribal areas is also one of the major reasons why people reimposed their faith in him.
Resilience during disasters
The fact that Odisha has managed to bounce back despite being the most disaster-prone state in the country is also an applaudable fact in itself. The super cyclone of 1999, Cyclone Phailin of 2013, Cyclone Hudhud of 2014, Cyclone Kyant of 2016 and the latest Cyclone Fani of 2019 have undoubtedly played a key role in arresting the progress of the state.
The Patnaik government had done a commendable job in managing the state during Cyclone Fani in terms of disaster preparedness, mitigation, and rehabilitation.
Interestingly, this time's Lok Sabha elections showcase that Patnaik's BJD has decided to embrace inclusiveness and gender equity as a policy. The party reserved one-third of its Lok Sabha seats for women candidates. These candidates from diverse walks of life went on to win five out of the seven seats reserved for them.
Though the act might have been a political stunt, the act itself is a novel one which calls emulation from other political parties.
As Naveen Patnaik takes oath in Odisha for the fifth term his responsibility is no different from his first term. He bears with him the aspirations of a downtrodden society struggling to take flight from the depths of poverty. They've given him the mandate to do what he does best -- empowerment.