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Monday, April 22, 2024

A tale of two CMs


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During the 2019 Odisha Assembly Elections campaigning, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shri Amit Shah in a rally thundered that the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) administration in Odisha is like a dysfunctional transformer that Odia voters need to dump in the Bay of Bengal. Yet, once elections were over, both the parties kept political differences aside and stood with each other whenever it was a question of national interest.

April 2020, when some logistics issues had resulted in Covid testing kits, being delivered to Odisha, to be stuck in Mumbai, it was one phone call that got the PMO to temporarily open Nashik Airport, amid a lockdown, and airlift the said kits.

April 2021, when the unprecedented Covid second wave had crippled the healthcare infrastructure of the entire country due to scarcity of oxygen, it was again one phone call that led to Odisha lending immediate and unconditional help with Oxygen supply to a large part of the country.


And unsurprisingly, all these calls were between two nationalists, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik. Even though their parties, the BJD and the BJP, are in bitter opposition at the state, the fact that Shri Patnaik has long maintained a cooperative and open stance with the Central government’s nationalist initiatives has elevated him above political slanders.


During Shri Modi’s visit to Odisha, on Friday, regarding the review meeting on Cyclone Yaas, Shri Patnaik once again proved his immense statesmanship when he insisted on handling the damage caused through the state’s own resources so that the central government is not burdened, keeping in mind the pandemic the country is reeling under.

Urbane, gentle and very able, Shri Patnaik received Shri Modi at the Biju Patnaik International Airport and went ahead to attend the review meeting on post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation that was chaired by the PM. The meeting was also attended by Union Ministers Shri Dharmendra Pradhan and Shri Pratap Sarangi, both of whom have been highly critical of the BJD government during past election campaigns. Yet, the question being of his people’s safety, Shri Patnaik with utmost maturity came together with all of them to discuss required measures and solutions; once again proving why he is one of the only opposition CMs who is widely lauded and respected.

Interestingly, the PM also visited another state that very day and with that very purpose. A state where he was received by a low profile minister in a perfunctory adherence to protocols. A state where the Chief Minister arrived at the meeting half an hour late even though she was allegedly in the surrounding premises. A state where the CM met Shri Modi for some brief ten minutes before storming off again, citing a meeting with ‘other’ state officials.

The state was West Bengal. And the Chief Minister in concern was Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s leader Mamata Banerjee.

Apprehensive of politicisation of the meeting and angry over the invitation extended to Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, neither CM Mamata nor any other representative of the state government attended the said review meeting. The meeting was held with Governor Shri Jagdeep Dhankar, Shri Suvendu Adhikari and Smt. Debashree Chaudhuri alone.

In yet another contrast, CM Mamata in her 10 minutes meet, at Kalaikunda Airbase, did nothing but hand over the demand of INR 30,000 Crore for the restoration of Digha and the Sunderbans; unlike Shri Patnaik who had assured that the centre need not provide the state with any kind of immediate financial assistance. Notably, damage in the said regions has mostly been suffered by private hotels and resorts.

Invariably, CM Mamata’s behaviour has not only brought her a lot of flak both in state and nationally but also maligned the rich cultural heritage of West Bengal.



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In the midst of all this, within few hours of the incident, West Bengal’s Chief Secretary Shri Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who is termed by many as a soldier of Mamata, was given central deputation with immediate effect. While opposition has alleged political vendetta, the centre has cited official reasons for the order. Whatever the reason might be, the order has left Mamata Banerjee restless.

Accusing the move as unconstitutional and unilateral, CM Mamata has appealed for the letter to be withdrawn. Reportedly, the CM has claimed that ‘for the sake of her state’ she is ready to wash Shri Modi’s feet if that’s what can make the letter be withdrawn. Apparently The CM can afford to affront the Prime Minister of the country, but cannot bear the supposed insult of her officers.

It also must be noted that Shri Patnaik’s conduct has not been unanimously welcomed either. As always, while he has been lauded for his actions and visions across the nation and around the globe, there are critics in his state who claim that this generosity is only a drama staged to draw popularity. But above all, it has been reinstated that no matter if this is a political gimmick or true show of morality, it is a win-win situation for Shri Patnaik.

Among all this, something that is evident is that while CM Mamata’s conduct has once again brought to the fore her unnecessary combative stance, Shri Patnaik at the same time has proved his far-sighted nature yet again. Odisha’s disaster response model has been globally appreciated; the state is all set to make itself immune from the devastating effects of such disasters in the long run. But West Bengal, on the other hand, does not seem to be able to look beyond politics and an immediate need for financial relief.

Two CMs, two meetings, two perspectives and one definition of statesmanship. Who indulged in petty slanders? Who staged PR stunts? Why the sharp contrast in behaviour? All these questions make up a separate discussion. But, despite all criticisms, the fact that Shri Naveen Patnaik has lived up to his name and won millions of hearts remains vivid and clear.

[author title=”Megha Satapathy” image=”http://goachronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IMG_20210205_095950.jpg”]Intern, Goa Chronicle

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Megha Satapathy
Megha Satapathy
"An orator, musician, bibliophile, and above all a nationalist. At 17, the author believes that anyone can make a difference in the universe, if they are daring enough!"

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