Naveen Patnaik throws in the hat to be leader of the 'Third Front'

·Columnist
·5 min read
Biju Janata Dal president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during the sit-in protest to demand an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy, at Talkatora Stadium, on January 8, 2019 in New Delhi. Photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Biju Janata Dal president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during the sit-in protest to demand an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy, at Talkatora Stadium, on January 8, 2019 in New Delhi. Photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written a letter to chief ministers of all states urging them to root for centralised procurement of vaccines by the Government of India. He has asked them to join hands in the fight against COVID-19.

Patnaik who completed the second year of his fifth term recently on 29 May, is the 4th longest serving chief minister in the history of Indian politics.

By the time he completes his fifth term in 2024, Patnaik would overtake Jyoti Basu and Pawan Kumar Chamling to become the longest-serving chief minister in India.

Sharing his letter on Twitter, Patnaik said that he had written to all the chief ministers for a consensus on centralised procurement of vaccines by GoI in view of the challenges faced by states. Patnaik added that he spoke to some of the chief ministers who shared his views.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

“No state is safe unless all states adopt vaccination as a top priority & execute it on war-footing.”

“We can't be competing with each other in getting vaccines. Hence united efforts required for vaccine procurement. States should have the flexibility to implement the vaccination programme based on local circumstances.”

“This is the greatest challenge we have faced together as a nation since Independence. We will set aside whatever differences we have & come together in the true spirit of Cooperative Federalism for saving precious lives & hard earned livelihoods. We as a ‘team’ owe it to our Citizens.”

Odisha has floated a global tender for procurement of vaccines, date extended to 4th of June, but received little response. Punjab and Delhi have also cited low response as manufacturers are hesitant in dealing with state governments.

The timing of the letter is intriguing. Patanik, the introverted, low profile, but popular chief minister has seldom been seen taking such a proactive approach.

A few days ago the prime minister visited Odisha to assess the ground situation after Yaas. Naveen attended the meeting unlike his counterpart Mamata who skipped the meeting and insulted the prime minister as stated by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

After meeting with Prime Minister Modi, Patnaik said Odisha did not want to burden the Centre at the peak of COVID-19 second wave by demanding immediate financial assistance for carrying out cyclone restoration works.

He instead called for provisioning of assistance for long-term cyclone mitigation measures and thanked the PM in a series of tweets for visiting the State. This gesture earned him laurels throughout the country.

While regional satraps have been vocal in their opposition to Modi since he came to power in 2014, Patnaik has adopted a careful, co-operative and non-confrontationist approach for the development of Odisha.

In fact his party, the Biju Janata Dal, has helped the BJP pass important legislations in the Rajya Sabha including Triple Talaq, Article 370, CAA etc. providing tactical issue based support. Publicly, BJD adopts a non-aligned approach, keeping Patnaik’s self-interest and Odisha's interest above all else.

During general elections 2019 when simultaneous polls to state were also held, both Pantanik and Modi, shied off from attacking each other.

While the BJP was looking for greenfield expansion into Odisha, to compensate for expected losses in Hindi heartland, Patanik held fort, winning 12 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats. State Congress often during the campaign accused BJD to be the ‘B-Team of BJP’.

The decimation of the Congress in the state elections 2021, the BJP’s inability to beat Mamata in Bengal and the decline in the popularity ratings of the prime minister in the second wave, has led to the chorus of Third Front getting louder.

Patnaik, the wily politician, who severed ties with the BJP in 2009, perhaps sees this as an opportunity. There is a vacuum in national politics. Regional parties gaining strength and becoming the principal challenger to BJP.

The BJP and the PM are facing the biggest crisis since coming to power. The Supreme Court has called the vaccination policy of the central government arbitrary and irrational.

If a Third Front shapes up, who better than Patnaik to lead the group (he might be thinking)? After all, he has the most administrative experience among regional leaders, and enjoys a clean and non-controversial image.

He could emerge as a consensus candidate given Patnaik doesn’t pose any threat to other leaders. In the process of rivals cancelling out each other’s names Naveen could emerge winner in the game of musical chairs.

Before anybody else takes the lead, Patnaik has jumped in and thrown in his hat, urging all the chief ministers to come together in the true spirit of Cooperative Federalism for saving precious lives and hard-earned livelihoods. 2024 is his last chance due to his age, Naveen will be 77 by then.

Patanik has seized the opportunity exhibiting his statesman qualities. Like it’s said, he has hit ‘mauke pe chauka’. It will be interesting to see how other strongmen react to meethi chhuri’s letter and how things shape up in the future.

DON’T MISS:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.