Biju Patnaik: as I knew him

I met him at the secretariat. He asked me many things about sports infrastructure, working of the sport’s hostels and nutrition of the inmates. I was surprised to find that he had more than adequate knowledge about sports and training. That is why he was a dynamic leader.

By Anadi Sahu

It was the last days of the “emergency” when I met Sri Biju Patnaik at his forest park office in Bhubaneswar. Since I was staying in Forest Park and I was S. P. Bhubaneswar I used to meet him very often. A person without rancourvisionary he would dwell upon many subjects not directly related to politics. He was elected to the Loksabha and became a Ministerof the Union cabinet. The reception he received at the airport was spectacular. There was President’s rule in Odisha and the Assembly elections imminent. At this time a group of students of the OUAT hijacked state transport bus to the hostel and confined the running staff in a hostel room. My pleading with the student was of no avail. I ordered lathi charge, rescued running staff and bringing away the bus out. To my utter surprise I found that Sri Biju Pattanaik wrote to the Governor of Odisha to place me under suspension. The Governor did not agree and ordered an administrative enquiry by the RDC Central Division.

I got into a confrontation with him when his workers and leftists were violently opposed the visit of Indira Gandhi to Cuttack. It was the post emergency period and the political workers were trying to settle scores with Indira Gandhi.  Lathi charge was ordered at Balikuda-Gopalpur area. A large number of political workers were injured. The DM and myself were injured. Biju Pattnaik wrote to the CM to place me under suspension. The then CM Nilamani Routray did not put me under suspension. In spite of knowing me so well the gesture of Sri Biju Pattnaik made me unhappy.

Years passed by and I joined as Director of Sports and Additional Secretary to government. It was period of sports development in Odisha with active guidance of Sri J. B. Pattnaik, CM After he demitted office and Sri Biju Pattnaik took over as CM he expected that I should make a courtesy call. I did not go to him. One early morning he rang up and asked me as to why I did not.  I told him as I was a middle officer and it would have impudent on my part to meet him.

He said, don’t talk rubbish, meet me.

I met him at the secretariat. He asked me many things about sports infrastructure, working of the sport’s hostels and nutrition of the inmates. I was surprised to find that he had more than adequate knowledge about sports and training. That is why he was a dynamic leader.

He asked me- when I shall able to find out the international level sports persons in Odisha. I replied in six months. I had in mind two young girls who were doing exceeding well in 100 meter and 400 meter race. These two girls did well in national level and were selected for the Junior Asiad at Beijing.

I took it as an opportunity to introduce the athletes to the C. M. I informed him that girls are well trained by coaches for Junior Asiad under my supervision. He was quite happy. Also informed him the girls will require winter clothing at Beijing. Odisha Council of sports will spend ten thousand rupees for the purchase. He said-no I will provide it. He rang up to his residence for the money. I rushed out to get the official photographer for a snap.  As usual he was absent.

The C. M.sent his peon to call me. I requested him to wait for the photographer. He said- I don’t require any publicity. Take the money and get them winter clothing. Magnanimity of the person can be gauged from his gestures.

After the girls got gold medal at the Beijing Asiad I thought they should meet C. that they may get some cash rewards. That time C. M.was at Odisha Bhawan, New Delhi. I took them and informed about the medals. He was brusque and said that I should not have taken the girls. He dismissed us in one second. He had a kind and generous heart with an irritable temper.

I was posted as the C. M. D.of Odisha State Comercial Transport Corporation. It was in an moribund stage. I tried to figure as to why the corporation was not making profit.. I found out that Biju Pattnaik had started Paradip Port and at the same time started construction of the express way from Sukinda to Paradip. The aim was to transport iron ore to Japan through Paradip Port. To facilitate such export the O. S. C. T. C was created and it was designated as the clearing and forwarding agent of Odisha government. Hey equipments were brought from Japan. Ten and sixteen wheeler trucks were brought. As the express way had not been completed in time thus equipments had to be kept on the open dock. The saline climate caused immense damage. By the time  they were taken to Bali Parbatin Sukinda area they had lost considerable efficiency. The colleagues and subordinates working under him could not keep pace with his vision and speed.

By some quirk of fate I was pitted against him in the Loksabha election. Of course I lost. He had been elected from Aska and Cuttack constituencies. He vacated the Cuttack seat. I contested in the bye election and elected.

I met Biju Pattnaik in the lobby of the Loksabha. Unusual for him he was wearing a grey safari suit. I commented “you look quite smart in this suit, sir. “Do I” well I have stitched it yesterday and I am going to Germany. Then he said- I had called you many names during the election campaign. I hope you don’t mind. You see everything is fair in love and war. Election was a war.

I don’t mind at all Sir, I said. That was the last conversation with him. I saw his mortal remains at the Naveen Niwas at Bhubaneswar. People had thronged the Niwas from nook and corner of Odisha.

He was loved in life as well as in death.

The end of a true States man.


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