I'm natural successor to Naveen Patnaik's great values, only BJP calls me 'outsider': VK Pandian | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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I'm natural successor to Naveen Patnaik's great values, only BJP calls me 'outsider': VK Pandian

PTI |
May 02, 2024 09:02 PM IST

In a no-holds-barred attack on the BJP, Pandian also said it is the ruling party at the Centre that has done nothing for the 'Odiya Asmita'.

Unfazed by the 'outsider' barb of his opponents, Naveen Patnaik's closest associate VK Pandian has said he is a "natural successor" to all the great values of the Odisha chief minister and he will do everything under the sun to help his "guru" serve the people of the state.

VK Pandian shakes hands with students during a programme in Bhubaneshwar.(ANI)
VK Pandian shakes hands with students during a programme in Bhubaneshwar.(ANI)

In a no-holds-barred attack on the BJP, Pandian also said it is the ruling party at the Centre that has done nothing for the 'Odiya Asmita' or for promoting the language, art and culture of the state despite repeated pleas by the chief minister. Follow full coverage of Lok Sabha elections.

In a candid video interview with PTI at Patnaik's residence here, the 49-year-old former IAS officer who last served as private secretary to the chief minister before quitting the service to join the party last year, said, "I call Naveen Babu my guru and I'm his shishya (disciple)."

Pandian said he is just a foot soldier and not even an office bearer of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), but he is a big fan of Patnaik.

"I do everything under the sun to see that Naveen Babu comes out with flying colours and continues to serve the people of Odisha in the best possible way and with all the big dreams he has for Odisha," Pandian said.

Also Read | BJD’s Naveen Patnaik files nomination from two Odisha assembly seats

Asked about he being seen as a natural successor to 77-year-old Patnaik, who has been Odisha's chief minister for five terms and is seeking his sixth term in the ongoing polls, Pandian said, "I'm a natural successor to all the great values he possesses, whether it's his impeccable integrity, his commitment to people of Odisha, his hard work, punctuality, sincerity, everything."

"Every person in Odisha and perhaps in the country should try to succeed his values. That's the kind of successor of Naveen Babu I see myself as and I'm proud of it. I try to emulate whatever he is doing," he said.

On the BJP's charge of he being an outsider in Odisha, Pandian said, "BJP calls me an outsider for their own political reasons, people of Odisha don't say that."

Pandian was born in Tamil Nadu, studied in Delhi and started his career as a Punjab cadre IAS officer, but shifted to Odisha cadre after marrying an Odiya.

Also Read | View: Who, what and how after Naveen Patnaik in Odisha amid Lok Sabha election 2024 frenzy?

"I have worked in Odisha for a quarter of a century now. People of Odisha see me as one of them. Why would otherwise they come out in such scorching heat in such large numbers, try to come close to me," he said referring to the huge crowds seen at his rallies and public meetings.

Speaking fluent Oriya laced with the local dialect of the place of the rally, Pandian always begins his public meetings interacting with the people, taking selfies for them on their own phones, shaking hands, and collecting their petitions.

He begins and ends his speeches with 'Jai Jagganath' and reads out a report card on the status of the petitions collected by him from the same place 3-4 months ago.

Pandian, who always removes his sandals before entering the stage, said, "I'm not a superstar or a great cricketer or somebody in some fancy field. I'm just a worker, but there is still so much love and affection of the people."

"It clearly means that some connect is there and it has to be because of the great work done by Naveen Babu. I'm just a part of his team," he said.

On persistent attacks on him from the BJP, including recently for the chief minister releasing a vote appeal video wearing a lungi, Pandian said, "I'm always the target. Whenever there is a tree with lots of fruits, everyone tries to throw stones at that so that something will happen, something will fall down. It's like that."

Pandian said, "The BJP knows that Naveen Patnaik has a huge traction among the people and I'm trying to help him, so they always try to attack me to weaken me physically, mentally, whichever way they can."

"But the protection of Naveen Babu and his work and of the love of the people is so strong, nothing will happen to me. All these attacks can't affect me for a single inch or degree. All these attacks actually give me more strength," he added.

Pandian said that in addition to Patnaik's guarantee and the shield of people's love being on his side, he also draws strength from the state government's work.

"The work speaks loudest. Why should people love me? They love Naveen Babu because so much work he has done. People love me because they see a foot soldier of Naveen Babu in me. Of all the work he has done, some of that has rubbed into me too," he added.

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