What Is V K Pandian’s Next Move, Any Guesses?

Bhubaneswar: Only seven months after quitting bureaucracy and joining Biju Janata Dal (BJD), V K Pandian may have declared an early retirement from active politics but what will be the bureaucrat-turned-politician’s next move, is a matter of intense speculation now.

Pandian in a video released on Sunday declared his retirement from active politics but he did not speak about his future role unlike in October 2023 when he quit Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and his next move was crystal clear. Given his long association with business houses and international organisations, he has a fair chance of getting an opportunity to get into the corporate world or join an international non-government organisation (INGO). But chances are also high that he would remain behind the curtain and try to influence Odisha politics and governance. He could also join IAS again.

Will Pandian be back in administrative service?

The former IAS officer of 2000 batch served in different administrative roles for 23 years before taking voluntary retirement. He resigned only seven months back and has a chance, though faint, of getting back into the bureaucracy again. His way back to service may not be easy but not impossible either. There are examples of IAS having left the service, joining politics, and being reinstated again. Shah Faesal, an IAS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre is one.

Faesal took voluntary retirement from service in January 2019 and formed a political party. Later, he again applied to the Central Government and expressed his desire to return to administrative service. His application was accepted and he was reinstated into IAS in April 2022. But Pandian’s reentry may not be that easy.  If not bureaucracy, Pandian may take up a high-paying job in the corporate sector or join an international agency; it could also be a UN agency. Many IAS officers are posted in important roles in international NGOs and corporate houses after superannuation. Pandian may follow their path or may lay the foundation of his own business house and see it rise.

He May Continue As BJD’s Chanakya

The former 5T Chairperson had said that if Naveen Patnaik did not become the Chief Minister for the sixth time, he would retire from politics. He was confident or at least he appeared so about BJD’s win. The party’s debacle and people’s backlash may have forced him to declare retirement from active politics on June 9 but he may continue to work in an incognito mode.

Once the second in command in BJD, Pandian’s departure from politics is not easily accepted and believed by people. There could be some other plan. A day before he resigned, BJP supremo Naveen Patnaik did not just give him a clean chit but also praised him for his work for Odisha’s development. He termed the ongoing criticisms against Pandian as “unfortunate”. Pandian may remain the invisible Chanakya in BJD and continue to support Naveen away from public eye.

Is it a retirement or a break?

Pandian is being held responsible for the setback that the party suffered in the recent elections after decades of having an absolute majority in the Assembly. Discontent and angered voices have started rising from within the party. Senior leaders are silent but youth and student leaders are not. There is also a strong voice emerging from among people against Pandian. Having observed all this, it must be his well-thought strategy to announce retirement and stay away from the party and state politics until time is right to return.

He may continue to hold state’s remote control 

Even if Pandian stays away from Odisha, the remote control of the state’s governance may still be in his hands. Pandian has close allies among bureaucrats, journalists, politicians and businessmen. It will not be a difficult task for him to keep both the party and state’s governance under his control even when he is away from the state.

What would be his role in Odisha’s future and how would it impact state politics and governance will come to fore in coming days. Till then we will have to wait and watch.

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