V.K. Pandian's formal entry into BJD lends credence to Naveen's successor speculation
CM's support for Pandian fuels speculation of him taking reins, especially after joining BJD on Monday
Bhubaneshwar: As anticipated, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s former private secretary V. Karthikeyan Pandian on Monday formally joined the state’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), adding credence to the wide speculation that he would be the next-man-in-command in the ruling party after the CM.
Pandian was inducted into the BJD by CM Naveen Patnaik in the presence of senior leaders of the party.
Seen as the successor of the 77-year-old Odisha CM, Pandian, a 2000-batch Indian Administrative Service (IA) officer, had taken voluntary retirement from service (VRS) last in November.
A close confidante of the CM, the Tamil Nadu-born bureaucrat served as CM’s private secretary from 2011-2023.
Naveen Patnaik, who has been in power as CM of Odisha since 2000, is a bachelor. Neither his Delhi-based elder brother Prem Patnaik nor his children have shown any interest in Odisha politics. In this scenario, the growing clout of Pandian and the CM strongly backing him has fuelled a speculation that the Tamil Nadu man might take the reins of administration, sooner or later. His formal entry into BJD on Monday has lent credence to it.
It is also speculated in political circles that Pandian might contest the upcoming Odisha Assembly elections from any seat in Ganjam, the CM's home district. Besides, many others speculate that the ex-babu might go to Rajya Sabha to serve as a link between the State and Union governments.
After his VRS, Pandian was on October 24 was appointed as chairperson of "Nabin Odisha" and ‘5T Initiative,’ two special missions, with a Cabinet minister rank. The two missions not only gave him the legal authority to supervise performances of all the state government departments but also conferred on him the power to monitor the development works.
A huge allocation of Rs 3,397 crore has been made for rural development works in 6,794 gram panchayats in the state under the ‘Nabin Odisha’ initiative. Each gram panchayat will get Rs 50 lakh under the programme.
Pandian’s first appointment was as Sub-Collector in Dharamgarh in Kalahandi district and served in the post from 2002 to 2004. During his brief stint, he earned love and affection of the local people as he ensured to farmers the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy and regularised the procurement of the crop by government-run mandis (procurement centres). His work attracted the attention of the state government.
Later, he was posted as District Collector of Mayurbhanj from 2005 to 2007 and Ganjam district from 2007 to 2011.
Speculations are rife that Pandian will look after the election management of the BJD in 2024. Odisha will go to the State Assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls in May next year.
There is a strong possibility of the BJD retaining power in the state for the sixth consecutive term post the 2024 Assembly elections. Hence, in all likelihood, the influence of Pandian on state politics will grow further.