JB Patnaik: Remembering A Colossus Of Odisha Politics

Bhubaneswar: Barring incumbent Naveen Patnaik, late Congress leader Janaki Ballabh Patnaik holds the record for the longest serving Chief Minister of Odisha. Though hailing from a non-political family, Patnaik remained the focus of Odisha politics for over four decades due to his political acumen and skill in devising plans.


Here’s a fact check on the life of the late leader:

#Birth & Education

Patnaik was born on January 3, 1927 at Rameswar near Khurda. He graduated in Sanskrit from Utkal University in 1947 and got Master’s Degree in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University in 1949.


He became a journalist and joined English daily ‘Eastern Times’ as a sub-editor. He became the Joint Editor in 1950 and eventually took over the role of Editor. Simultaneously, he took up editorship of Odia daily ‘Prajatantra’ before publishing the monthly journal ‘Pourusha’ in 1967, which came to be known for its rich quality.


Besides being a political stalwart, Patnaik displayed his versatility by being an eminent litterateur and won many literary awards. He won the Central Sahitya Akademi for his Odia translation of Bankim Chandra’s novels titled ‘Bankim Chandra Upanyasmala’ in 2001 and Odisha Sahitya Akademi award for ‘Bairagya Shataka’, a translation of Bhartruhari’s celebrated Sanskrit work, in 1996.

Patnaik had also translated the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagvat Gita into Odia. He also wrote books on Sindhu Upatyaka and Gautam Buddha.


Indoctrinated into politics soon after completing his education, Patnaik proved his abilities in the field by becoming a Union minister, three-time Chief Minister and Governor.

He became president of Odisha Youth Congress in 1953 and successfully led a tenants’ movement at Madhupur in Cuttack in 1954.

He was elected to Lok Sabha in 1971 and became a Deputy Minister of Defence under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1973 to 1975 and then Minister of State for Defence till 1980. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in January 1980 and became Union Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation and Labour.

#Chief Minister

In 1980, Patnaik was unanimously elected as the leader of Congress Legislature Party of Odisha The Congress stalwart became Chief Minister in 1980 and continued in office till 1989. He bounced back to power in 1995 and ruled till 1999.

Patnaik’s period as Chief Minister was described as a “golden age” by his loyalists who said the state made all round progress during 14 years of his rule. The New Jagannath Sadak (Chandanpur in Puri district to Sarankul in Nayagarh district) is one of his major contributions to transportation and tourism of Odisha.

# Scandals

He was, however, criticised for several scandals during his tenure as the Odisha Chief Minister, including the infamous Chhabirani murder case in the mid-80s and the infamous Anjana Mishra rape case in 1999.

In 1986, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd, Pritish Nandy, editor of the ‘Illustrated Weekly’, and SNM Abdi, special correspondent, were made to publish a public apology for two defamatory articles under the headlines ‘The strange escapades of JB Patnaik’ and ‘Why is JB Patnaik being allowed to gag the press?’

# Governor of Assam

In 2009, Patnaik was appointed as the Governor of Assam. People close to him recall that as Governor, Patnaik was instrumental for the entry of women into ‘Kirtan Ghar’ (Sanctum Sanctorum) of Patbausi Satra in Central Assam.

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