ONI Bureau: The debate is back. It all started on January 13, 2015 when Arun Patnaik, son of industrialist Prem Patnaik, nephew of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and grandson of legendary Biju Patnaik, appeared before the media for the first time, when he attended the event to hand over the ancestral home of late Biju Patnaik to the Odisha Government.
While Prem Patnaik and Naveen Patnaik signed the relevant documents at the Sub Registrar’s office in Cuttack to formally hand over the property to the government, Arun Patnaik grabbed the media attention. The questions were obvious, and so were his answers. He ruled out joining politics at that juncture.
But, with a group of people close to Jajpur MLA and influential BJD leader Pranab Prakash Das (Bobby) floating a WhatsApp Group called ‘Arun Patnaik Fan Club’ and adding top BJD leaders, has triggered the fresh debate whether the grandson is all set to claim the ‘Biju Legacy’.
Although Arun Patnaik is involved in the family business run by Prem Patnaik, many people in the BJD want him at the helm of affairs so that they can continue to evoke Biju and Naveen legacy over the years. The move is seen as a counter to staunch Biju followers such as Dr. Damodar Rout and Baijayant Panda who are said to be in touch to float a new party claiming the ‘Biju Legacy’.
Since the group close to Bobby Das has taken the lead to project Arun Patnaik as the future, it is believed that it has the blessings of Naveen Patnaik who is not averse to the idea. It was Prem Patnaik who was the first choice to take over the reins of ‘Biju Legacy’ after the demise of late Biju Patnaik. But, his refusal compelled a “reluctant” Naveen Patnaik enter the politics and rest was history.
It would be interesting to see whether this new development is just a move to please Naveen Patnaik or there is a serious plan that is going to be unfolded in the months to come. Some political pundits believe that Arun Patnaik may take over the youth wing and enter the electoral arena in 2019, most probably from Jajpur or Bhubaneswar.They believe BJD won’t have a smooth ride in 2019 because of rising BJP and Congress as well as strong onslaught from Baijayant Panda and Dr. Damodar Rout. Moreover, the party wants to allay all fears among the BJD workers that there would be a disintegration after Naveen Patnaik.
But, the question remains – will people of Odisha accept him?