Remembering a Forgotten ‘Hero’ of the Last Century – Biju Patnaik

During Indo-Pak war, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastry, on the advice of defense officials, sought his helping hand to be the secret emissary to the Indonesian President Mr. Sukarno to request him to withdraw their naval torpedoes, which they had already sent to help Pakisthan. This diplomatic wonder was done possible due to Biju Patnaik’s personal relationship with Mr. Sukarno. Prime Minister Shastry wanted to reward Biju Patnaik but unluckily the Prime Minister returned from Tashkent Dead. This untold story was known to me by Biju Babu himself.

By Sarat Kumar Kar

 I have made a humble endeavour through this article on the 100th birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik, to remind the Indians in general and the Odiyas in particular that here was a man born on this soil, Odisha (Cuttack) to combine in his personality the triple internationally known Indian Nationals like Gandhi, Subhash and Nehru. Also he imbibed the spirit of two nationally revered Odiys, Utkalamani Gopabandhu and Utkala Gaurab Mr. Das i.e the ‘Jewell’ and ‘Pride’ of Odisha before Odisha was declared a separate state in pre-independent India..

On the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary hardly Indians and Odiyas have remembered his achievements during historic struggle for national independence and his endeavour afterwards to raise the Odiyas to the Kalingan spirit of valour to prove “Kalingaha Sahasikaha”. Probably with this spirit in mind he founded internationally reputed KALINGA PRIZE in UNESCO to award every year to the best scientists of the world who popularize his scientific knowledge to the people. With the same spirit in fact he founded many industries, organization of game, culture and journalistic commercial institutions too. To mention a few among them are the Kalinga Airline, Kalinga Industries, Kalinga Tubes, Kalinga Refrigerators, Kalinga Stadium, Kalinga Football Tournament, Kalinga Press and Kalinga Daily News paper, Kalinga Vidyapitha, specially the ‘Kalinga Trust’ to help students of adventurers, merit and poor, small scale industrial entrepreneurs and daring sports men and women including notable English Channel swimmer Late MIHIR SEN of Odisha.

During his Chief ministership, besides his personal name and brand bearing ‘Kalinga’ mile stones he had initiated many governmental monuments for the first time in Odisha under his leadership. To name the few are the Sainika School, Regional Educational College and School of flying, wireless, engineering and ITI, Central School, Egineering College at Burla and Rourkela, Hindusthan Aeronautics (MIG engine builder) at Sunabeda, (Koraput). Two Universities and Two Medical Colleges at Burla and Berhampur, Konarka Cement factory at Bargarh. He established Industrial Development Corporatio0n for Industry and Commerce. For the all round development in Industry, Agriculture, Education and road connection from Paradip port to mineral belt area when there was no Rly. link. So he built the express Highway like National Hoghway. His ideas were farwide and far reaching to develop the infrastructure in every field of Odisha’s all round development. He is the first in India to develop three tier Panchyatiraj and introduced 30% women reservation in gram panchyat representation and initiated competitive awards for gram panchayats and panchayat samitis. By introducing Panchyat Industries as their prizes, he named the Sarpanchas as Chief Ministers of their locality. Thus Panchyat Industries were started as decentralization of development and industrial concentration.

The political observers and the present day historians ought to enumerate and analyze his word deed and spirit attempting to raise the people of his beloved state, Odiyas and the nation at large. Biju was busy in his ideas and endeavors for building the nation and the people after India became a free country.

Biju Patnaik, though now a house-hold name in Odisha and yet there was a time, when he was rather lesser known to Odisha and the Odiyas but better known to the British Indian Rulers. As a dare-devil ace pilot of the British Empire, he was being trusted by them from among the Natives. On the other hand, paradoxically, he was known to the under-ground National freedom-fighters i.e. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Lokanayak Jayaprakash Narayan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and Aruna Asaf Ali etc. as their most daring patron of underground activities.

At last the cat was out of the bag, when, his art of camouflaging was detected. To the surprise of other freedom fighters though he was detained along with the top freedom fighters,not as a political prisoner, but as a most dangerous traitor of the British empire,  he was chained in hands and foot like an Andaman (Kala Pani) detenue. The jail warden forced him to drink urine, when he asked for water in jail. One can’t imagine the degree of misery, torture and plights inflicted to a person, who was enjoying his life with choicest drinks, dance, mirth and laughter earlier as one of the ace pilots of the British Empire.  The decision of the British to free India, eventually, freed him from the jailed life, which otherwise would have ended his life like that of any other national martyrs.

When he came back to Odisha, on the advices of national leaders, especially of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to strengthen the Indian National Congress in Odisha. He helped the then Odisha Congress leaders i.e. Biswanath Das, Dr. HK Mahtab, and Nabakrushna Choudhury in building the state of Odisha. In every important steps of Odisha Government, he had a major role to play, including establishment of Odisha Textile Mill (OTM), the first industry in Odisha. Due to his persuasive initiative and drive, large projects like the Hirakud Dam, Paradip Port and Rourkela Steel Plant were approved for Odisha by Mr. Nehru.

During the dawn of freedom, the then Prime Minister Mr. Nehru entrusted him with many epoch-making secret parleys and consultations on many critical and complex issues, including, Azad Kashmir aggression and the Nepal insurgency by the democrats. Further, he was called upon to undertake a most arduous task of rescuing a few important national leaders of Indonesia from the clutches of the Dutch and bringing them to New Delhi for participation in an International conference. This daring act won him the most prestigious title of honour “BHUMI PUTRA” of Indonesia. On their 50th year of Independe3nce Indonesia Govt. awarded him “BIRTANG PURUSH UTTAMA”.

During the Indo-Chinese war, though he was the Chief Minister of Odisha, he virtually acted as the advisor of Prime Minister Nehru in response to his invitations, in all important matters relating to defense. He was sent to the U.S.A. as the Prime Minister’s special envoy to discuss with the American military authority regarding the situation arising after the Sino-Indian war. Thus he was enjoying the utmost confidence of the first Prime Minister of India, in matters of administrative, diplomatic and defence strategies, though he was not a member of his cabinet.

He was elected as the most popular leader of Odisha, and as its Chief Minister, very pro-actively he pursued the task of fulfilling his dreams of building a new Odisha. In addition to that, he was helping and advising the most powerful Prime Minister as and when needed by him. This evoked political rivalries and jealousy of many National and State leaders and politicians. He was beginning to be the victim of series of political angst from many quarters. But nevertheless, his strength, stamina and will-power as a Statesman helped him to withstand everything including facing enquiry commission and adverse propaganda in media and Assembly Parliament proceedings. All said and done, he came out successful   to create a sense of fear and respect for him among many leaders. All details of these achievements and huddles known to me can be downloaded from different sources. However, some inside stories I know which I will write afterwards.

He was tall and physically well built as a sportsman and adventure seeking person. Since his young days, he was bestowed by nature with a strong will power and sportsman’s spirit. These uncommon attributes, made him taller than any compelling counterparts and adversaries in dealing with the issues and affairs of the State and National politics. He was a towering personality among all other Indian politicians, probably with exceptions to Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Netaji Subhash Bose. An amalgamation of distinct qualities of Mr. MK Gandhi, Mr. Subhash Chandra Bose and Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, found naturally ingrained in him; to be termed as a three-in-one combination.

He liked Mahatma Gandhi, who was a humanitarian, benevolent and a broad visionary with a mission to raise the poor, the neglected, the women communities, the untouchables and the unprivileged minority.

He was daring, adventurous and an ardent fighter for India’s freedom struggle. With ideologies, courage and vision like that of legendary Netaji Subhash Bose; he never hesitated to risk his life and career in several occasions.

He was an able administrator, advisor and a man full of vision to build the nation with a Statesman-like zeal and ability like that of Nehru. In fact, he was extremely close to him and co-shared his ideas in building a modern India. Nehru Ji had immense confidence on Biju Babu, upon which, he sent his daughter Indira with him to execute some of his exclusive ideas concerning the party and the government into action. This enviable position and relation with Nehru cost him very dearly soon after Nehru’s death.

So he had the requisite quality and charisma of Nehru, which made him widely known in India and lovable in Odisha, in spite of hostility and adverse propaganda against him by different parties having their ulterior motives and self-interests.

I have described many unknown facts and legendary achievements of his career in many public meetings and have replied to the adverse comments of his adversaries and their prejudiced propaganda. He is thus a colourful personality, a unity of three-in-one. Biju Patnaik, a gem and a hero of Indian soil, who had been honoured by the Indonesian Government for his role in the Indonesian freedom struggle, and honoured by the Russians for his services in World-War II against the Nazis, has been conveniently forgotten by Indians.

During Indo-Pak war, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastry, on the advice of defense officials, sought his helping hand to be the secret emissary to the Indonesian President Mr. Sukarno to request him to withdraw their naval torpedoes, which they had already sent to help Pakisthan. This diplomatic wonder was done possible due to Biju Patnaik’s personal relationship with Mr. Sukarno. Prime Minister Shastry wanted to reward Biju Patnaik but unluckily the Prime Minister returned from Tashkent Dead. This untold story was known to me by Biju Babu himself.

In an interview by Sugyan Choudhury published in the Pioneer – a national daily on asking me on my experience during the Emergency with Biju Babu, when Jayaprakash, Morarjee Desai and Biju Babu like all top leaders were in jail. I had gone underground and met many MPs confidentially to defeat the emergency ordinance in the Parliament House. Because I thought emergency was the death of democracy. But soon after Indiraji declared election, pending Emergency by only freeing some top leaders and keeping some in jail. All top leaders of the country used to meet at the 3 Aurangzeb Road, residence of Biju Patnaik since Biju Babu was the virtual coordinator. I was there to assist him. Morarjee Desai, Charan Shingh, A.B.Vajpai and other veterans met Jayaprakash Narayan at his residence and a party in the name of J.P Janata Party (a sort of alliance) came in to being. Thereafter, everyone knows the details and the results. The congress was routed in the country except four Lokasabha seats in the four southern states.  Thus Biju Babu was the pioneer of the Janata Party as an National Alternative to Congress during Emergency and after the Election of 1977. Throughout these years  he was in National Politics as a national leader of non-congress alliance till death.

Sri Sobhan Kar IRS in a meeting with Late Mrs Gyana Patnaik wife of Biju Babu at her Delhi residence recorded that she told him “your uncle (Biju Babu) always wanted your father (Sarat Kar) by his side because he trusted him politically always. In the same article he writes that recently a seating Member of Parliament (BJD) from Odisha told him “your father made Biju Babu the leader that he became in 1971 through his non congress public rallies.”  The remarks of Mrs Gyan Patnaik and the remarks of a present day BJD MP, and my remark has been recorded by Sugyan Choudhury of the Pioneer, “Biju Babu was my friend philosopher and Guide. He had the catholicity of a Gandhiji, the dare devilery of a Subhash Bose, the vision and creative imagination of a Nehru, all rolled into one.

I have repeated my remarks about him vis-à-vis Gandhi, Subhash and Nehru on the one hand and two immortal Odiya leaders Utkal Mani and Utkal Gaurav on the other. But I have hardly explained and analyzed the similarity of his words, deed and spirit in detail. It will require volumes of description which I could not attempted to write nor recorded my public speeches and discussions. Anyway I advise the readers to get some from Parliament and Assembly proceeding and news paper cuttings from the National or state archives.

The End.




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