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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

‘A whirlwind romance’: BJP leader Jay Panda on how he wooed his would-be wife

On the face of it, Panda’s switch from the Biju Janata Dal to the Bharatiya Janata Party has made a difference of only one letter of the alphabet: the D of Dal replaced by the P for Party. So instead of the BJD to which he owed his allegiance since its inception, it is now the BJP to which he has crossed over.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2019 10:26 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
BJP leader Jay Panda
BJP leader Jay Panda(HT Photo)
         

On the face of it, Jay Panda’s switch from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made a difference of only one letter of the alphabet: the D of Dal replaced by P of Party. So instead of the BJD to which he owed his allegiance since its inception, it is now the BJP to which he has crossed over. The game of initials has yet another twist: his new party’s initials are similar to his own: Bai-Jayant Panda can be read as the BJP.

Better known as ‘Jay’ Panda, his joining the BJP was on the cards since he parted ways with his long-time family friend and the Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, last year. That he would bag the post of the BJP’s national vice-president was a bit of a surprise. In fact, the nine-monthlong wait which he called “introspection” was interpreted by his critics as the saffron party giving him short shrift. That over, Jay Panda can sit smug and count his blessings.

And blessings there are. Counted among the prominent business families in Odisha, Jay Panda has a fulfilling personal life. He met his wife, Jaggi Mangat, in 1992. She was a model and Jay, a globetrotter. A bomb scare had grounded their flight and the two of them were cooped up for eight long hours at Ankara airport. They hit it off well to put it mildly. Panda likes to put it to “shyness” but the fact that he forgot to exchange phone numbers is because he could not think straight: he was, to use his own expression, “gobsmacked” by Jaggi.

Had Destiny not stepped in, the first would have, perhaps, been their last meeting. But within a few days they ran into each other, again at an airport. The first thing Jay did was to ask Jaggi for her phone number. “And then one thing led to another,” he said.

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When he hired a limousine and bought 100 red roses to woo her, she was not impressed. He even accompanied her to her photoshoots. “It was quite a whirlwind romance,” Panda says.

Post marriage, both took a conscious decision not to have kids. Their gruelling work schedules and challenging careers – his in politics and her running a media company – would not have left enough time to devote to kids. They support an orphanage but someday may decide to adopt and bring a kid home.

As a child, Panda wanted to do sky diving. That needed written permission from his parents. Well aware that his father would never allow him, Jay copied his signature, submitted the form and took to the skies. Sky diving and bungee jumping preceded his training as a pilot. So when people ask him why he had reversed the order, he said: “Isn’t it logical that one should first know how to jump out of a plane before trying to fly it?”

Panda prefers helicopters to planes because a helicopter can land anywhere. Panda often does, on rice-fields.

Back home, there is a piano in his living room which he does not know how to play and an interesting twist to the usual iconography of Communist leader Mao Tsetung. Panda’s Mao holds a Louis Vuitton bag!

First Published: Mar 17, 2019 08:14 IST