After poll debacle, Pandian says quitting active politics | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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After poll debacle, Pandian says quitting active politics

ByDebabrata Mohanty
Jun 10, 2024 07:30 AM IST

Former IAS officer VK Pandian, who was Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary, had joined BJD last November.

Bhubaneswar: VK Pandian, former bureaucrat and outgoing Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s close aide, on Sunday announced his withdrawal from “active politics”, five days after the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) faced a drubbing at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in both the assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Former IAS officer VK Pandian, who was Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary, had joined BJD last November. (ANI Photo)
Former IAS officer VK Pandian, who was Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary, had joined BJD last November. (ANI Photo)

The former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who spearheaded the BJD’s poll campaign and was often targeted by the BJP over his Tamil origin, also apologised for the 26-year-old regional outfit’s worst-ever electoral performance in the recently concluded simultaneous polls.

“My intent of joining politics was only… only… to assist Naveen babu, and now consciously I decide to withdraw myself from active politics,” Pandian said in a video message posted on his Instagram page. “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. I apologise to the entire Biju parivar (family), including all the karmis (workers) for this.”

The BJD faced its worst defeat in the state polls, losing the power in the state after 24-year rule to the BJP. The Naveen Patnaik-led party managed to win only 51 seats, down from the 113 seats it won in 2019, in the 147-member assembly. The BJP, on the other hand, stormed to power, winning 78 seats, four more than the majority mark of 74. The BJD also failed to open its account in the Lok Sabha polls in the state, with the BJP winning 20 of the 21 seats and the Congress one.

Pandian, a 2000-batch IAS officer, who had served as the private secretary to Patnaik in the chief minister’s office since 2011 and was widely considered as one of the most powerful officers in the state, took voluntary retirement from service in October last year. He joined the BJD on November 27 and soon rose unofficially to the second rank in the party behind only party president Patnaik.

As he took centre stage, driving the BJD’s poll campaign, the party’s former ally-turned-rival BJP made Pandian’s Tamil origin as its central political plank, levelling him as an “outsider”. The BJP also evoked “Odia Asmita” (Odia Pride) focussing on Pandian’s non-Odia roots and the wide-spread presumption that he would succeed Patnaik in the party and government. Top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also accused Pandian of holding Patnaik captive. The missing of Ratna Bhandar (treasury) keys of the Shree Jagannath Temple was also attributed to him.

“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, conveying his heartfelt gratitude to the lakhs of BJD members with whom he was associated.

Pandian also said 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. Stating that he came to Odisha because his wife is from Kendrapara, he recalled: “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.”

Pandian said he had no desire whatsoever for a specific political post or power. “Therefore, I was neither a candidate nor was holding any post in the party. It has been my shortcoming that I could not effectively counter the political narratives,” he said.

After the electoral drubbing, the clamour within BJD grew over Pandian’s role, as many leaders told Patnaik that it was the former bureaucrat who stood between the party and the victory. Defending his close confidant, Patnaik on Saturday termed the criticism against Pandian as “unfortunate” and praised the former IAS officer for doing an “excellent job.” Patnaik also clarified that Pandian was “not his successor”.

During an election rally on May 10, Pandian had vowed to quit politics if Patnaik does not take oath as the CM. He was responding to Modi’s comments predicting a BJP government in Odisha.

In his video message, Pandian said his decision to join the BJD was to “assist his mentor” Patnaik ahead of the “gruelling election”.

“My only intent was to help him as anyone would do for his mentor or family. I would like to set straight certain perceptions and narratives. Perhaps it has been my shortcoming that I have not been able to effectively counter some of these political narratives at the right time,” he added.

Taking a dig at Pandian over his announcement to withdraw from politics, senior BJP leader Pitambar Acharya claimed the “arrogance and vehemence” shown by the former bureaucrat during poll campaign in Odisha was unprecedented in politics. In a post on X, Acharya said: “Pandian quitting politics was not enough, the guilty needs to be punished for pushing Odisha down.”

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