Bhubaneswar: Naveen Patnaik is known to fuel guessing games. And he has done it once again by going on record that “no member of my family will join politics”.
Close on the heels of Odisha Bytes reporting a possible move by Naveen (who has won from Bijepur and Hinjili) to vacate the Hinjili seat for his nephew Arun Patnaik to make his political debut, the BJD president on Monday told mediapersons he has no succession plan and “the people will choose the next leader”.
This has triggered fresh speculation in political circles on whether Naveen is deliberately putting Arun’s entry on hold or is opening to the possibility of someone from outside the Biju Patnaik family to take over the party reins in future.
BJD sources said there is divided opinion within the regional party regarding entry of someone from Naveen’s family into politics. While a section supports the idea on the ground that someone from within the Biju family can keep the party together, there are others who believe that would not work. “Keeping in view the celebratory mood within the party because of the overwhelming electoral victory for the fifth consecutive time, Naveen possibly doesn’t want to reveal his cards just yet. He would certainly not want anything to dampen the revelry right now,” a party insider observed.
Some party leaders believe Arun’s entry is a matter of time. “When and how is the question,” a senior partyman noted, adding, “Unless the leader is from Biju and Naveen’s family, it would be difficult to keep the party united. Whether they bring in someone now or after some time is a call the powers that be will have to take.”
Some leaders feel it would be wise not to introduce Arun to direct electoral politics right now and allow him time by making a “soft launch” through the Rajya Sabha route. Some others believe if and when the powers that be feel the need to bring in someone from Naveen’s family they would weigh the political compulsions and play the “people’s demand” card. “In politics, anything is possible, anytime. Like Naveen contest from Bijepur on the plea that people of western Odisha wanted it. So also, Arun can enter anytime because the party cadres and the public would demand it,” a party leader quipped.
Incidentally, speculation has been rife in political circles for quite some time on someone from Naveen’s family joining politics. His elder sister and writer Gita Mehta’s name was also being discussed and when Bishnu Das vacated his Rajya Sabha seat in 2017, there was talk that Mehta would go to the Upper House. Eventually, Pratap Deb replaced Das, fuelling discussions that Naveen didn’t want to be seen as a dynast ahead of the 2019 elections.