ANI Photo | “Work hard from the day you are elected is Naveen Patnaik’s mantra” says VK Pandian, backs satrap for sixth term

VK Pandian the former IAS officer turned politician is now preparing the ground for another Naveen Patnaik victory in both the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and the state assembly elections that will be held simultaneously.
Pandian who has led several of the efforts of the state including the 5T initiatives feels that Naveen Patnaik has been the singular force behind the state’s transformation.
“So during our Chief Minister’s time, the face of Kalahandi actually changed. He brought in irrigation in a large scale. So he transformed the grey areas of drought-prone areas into green areas. So we have food surplus in Kalahandi. When I was posted there in 2003-04, We have to sell a lot of paddy. That was a big challenge and ensuring minimum support price for the farmers” Pandian said in an interview with ANI.
“We used to depend on Punjab, Haryana, other states for our own food security. The public distribution system will wait for rail wagons to come from other states. So if the wagons are delayed, the food security and the public distribution system will get delayed. So he invested heavily in irrigation, he invested in agriculture practices. And in seven years, eight years, Odisha had become self-sufficient in food grain production. In 11 years, Odisha became food surplus. And now we are the third largest contributor to the country’s food security” he added.
Pandian says that though the Chief Minister is a hard-task master he supports good work done in a transparent manner.
“I think he supports good work, transparent work. I can give an example of what happened with me when I was a young sub collector in Dharmagarh in Kalahandi, 2003-04. I was going all out against rice millers who are doing mischief in ensuring minimum support price. So all of them joined together and came to the state headquarters and met the food and civil supplies minister. These millers had an idea as to how officers used to get transferred overnight during the Congress regime. So when they met the minister, food and civil supplies, he laughed and said that this is Naveen Patnaik’s government, you can’t get an officer transferred for doing good work” Pandian recalled.
“So, the narrative was very clear that if you do good job, honest job, he will stand behind you. He is very clear about where to draw the line between bureaucracy and the political executive. He knows what has to be done through the political executive, how much you have to respect the political executive, and how much work you have to get done by the administration, the bureaucrats” Pandian added.
Prior to seeking Voluntary retirement VK Pandian served as 5T Secretary to the State Government. 5T is a charter of governance which emphasises Transparency, Technology, Teamwork, Time leading to Transformation. Pandian is also said to be the man behind the Odisha governments flagship program Mo Sarkar.
“5T is the governance principle of the Chief Minister. He deploys this in every public service. And one classic example you can say is Jagannath Temple renovation or any major project where every process is transparent. By teamwork, the Chief Minister means is involving the community, involve all the stakeholders and make them own the project. He introduced the concept of time audit for projects. If it is three years, you have to complete it in three years. If it is six months, you have to complete in six months. Otherwise, accountability will be fixed” Pandian explains.
“Naveen Odisha is an empowered Odisha where a poorest of poor person also will dream big and he will be empowered to achieve his dreams. Whatever is your ambition, aspiration, you should be able to achieve. We should create an environment, we should empower you, the government should empower you to achieve that. That is the kind of narrative the Chief Minister wants to leave. When he took over in 2000, the state was affected by super cyclone in 1999. He decided that Odisha should not be known for mishandling disasters. Odisha should be known for handling disasters in the best possible way. He put systems in place. He did a vulnerability mapping of the entire coast. Put up systems, put up cyclone shelters, put up flood shelters, put up advance warning systems” Pandian says.
“In 2012, when Phailin super cyclone hit, everyone predicted that Odisha will be hit very badly. The cyclone came, hit with 230-240 kilometres per hour. But, not a single life was lost. And Odisha was back into action in 10 days. Electricity was restored, water supply was restored. That is New Odisha. An Odisha which sets benchmark in anything. New York Times wrote a front page editorial saying that if you want to save a million lives, learn it from a state called Odisha” Pandian added.
It is these qualities the BJD leader says that will ensure that Naveen Patnaik wins a historic sixth term in office.
“I think people were very happy with whatever he was doing in every field. Whether it is disaster management, where he has set global benchmarks, or food security. Our tribal empowerment, our education, every field. That is why perhaps he got pro-incumbency instead of anti-incumbency which sets in even after one term. He is now a five term chief minister and in every election his margins go higher, his vote percentage is going high and perhaps he will repeat the same in 2024 as well” Pandian said.
“In fact, in 2019, his entire campaign was just one line. Are you happy with me? It became an iconic word. That’s the kind of politics he believes in. Work hard, from the day you get elected” Pandian added.
As Naveen Patnaik braces himself and his party for a tough election, Pandian who is now a part of the BJD will be a crucial cog in ensuring that Patnaik goes down in history books with another big win

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