When Naveen Patnaik became the Union Minister for Mines during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure and his party allied with the BJP to rule Odisha for nine years before the alliance came to an end in 2009, everyone expected that his father and legendary Biju Patnaik would get the ‘Bharat Ratna’. But, that still remains a dream even 17 years after his death.
For the last 14 years, people of Odisha have been living with false hopes that Biju Patnaik will get the honour which he duly deserved. But, the successive BJP and Congress led governments did not show any seriousness or urgency to consider his case. Ironically, neither Naveen Patnaik nor his party gave a strong push to the demand at any point of time. Only recently, Bhubaneswar MP Prasanna Patsani and Tourism Minister Ashok Panda demanded the honour for Biju Patnaik at the 17th Foundation Day of the BJD.
Former Union Minister and sitting MLA from Rourkela, Dilip Ray, who was on Biju Patnaik’s side when he breathed his last, has renewed the demand for the highest civilian honour for late Biju Patnaik, who remained the tallest leader of Odisha and made his presence his felt both in the state and at the national level.
Biju Patnaik, who was born on 5th March, 1916 and died on 17th April 1997, was the Chief Minister of Odisha twice. He was also the Union Minister for Steel, Mines and Coal in Morarji Desai government. When Janata Dal came to power in 1996-97, he was being considered for the post of Prime Minister and then tipped to become a Union Minister. But, some conspirators played the spoilsport to block his chances.
During his youth, Biju Patnaik flew with private airlines but he joined the Royal Indian Air Force during the World War II and became head of the Air Transport Command. Biju Patnaik and his wife flew to Java and brought Sultan Sjahrir out on a Dakota on the orders of then PM Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947. For this act of bravery, he was given honorary citizenship in Indonesia and also awarded the ‘Bhoomi Putra’. In 1996, when Indonesia was celebrating its 50th Independence Day in 1996, Biju Patnaik was awarded the highest national award, the ‘Bintang Jasa Utama’.
Although Indonesia has recognized his contributions and efforts, India has failed to give him the honour and place he deserves in the history book. Hopefully, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will look into the matter and justice will be delivered to late Biju Patnaik, the ‘Real Hero of Odisha. Nation celebrated ‘Bharat Ratna’ award to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and late Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya. But, for the people of Odisha, real celebration will come only when Biju Patnaik gets the honour.