"I Am Sorry If...": Naveen Patnaik's Key Aide VK Pandian Quits Politics

VK Pandian, who quit the civil service and joined the BJD in November last year, released a video message

'I Am Sorry If...': Naveen Patnaik's Key Aide VK Pandian Quits Politics

VK Pandian quit IAS last year and joined the BJD

New Delhi:

Days after the BJD suffered a shock defeat in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Odisha, former IAS officer and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik's key aide VK Pandian has announced that he is quitting active politics.

Mr Pandian, who quit the civil service and joined the BJD in November last year, released a video message in which he said he comes from a humble family and a small village. He said his childhood dream was to join the IAS and serve the people. "(From) the day I set foot in the soil of Odisha, I have received immense love and affection from the people of Odisha," he said, adding that he has tried to work very hard for the people across the state.

Mr Pandian said it has been an honour to work for Naveen Patnaik, who would have reached the milestone of being the country's longest-serving Chief Minister if the BJD returned to power. "The experience and learning I got is for a lifetime. His grace, leadership, ethics and above all, the love for the people of Odisha always inspired me. His expectation from me was to implement his vision for Odisha and we successfully crossed many milestones in health, education, poverty reduction, ports, investment, women empowerment, infrastructure and also in temple and heritage projects," he said.

Mr Pandian said he left the IAS and joined the BJD to assist his mentor Naveen Patnaik. "My only intent was to help him, as anyone would do for his mentor and family. I would like to set straight certain perceptions and narratives. Perhaps, it has been my shortcoming that I have not been able to effectively counter some of these political narratives. I reiterate that I came to politics to help my mentor Naveen Patnaik ahead of the gruelling elections and I had no desire, whatsoever, for a specific political post or power. That's why I was neither a candidate nor was I holding any post in Biju Janata Dal," he said.

Among the key reasons behind BJD's poor show in this election was an "outsider" perception about Mr Pandian, who wielded considerable clout within the BJD and the state's administrative machinery. This perception, further stoked by the BJP's campaign, is learnt to have played a key role in the Assembly election results and also in the BJD's setback in the Lok Sabha polls. The BJD scored a blank in this general election, a massive slide from its 2019 tally of 12. In the Assembly election, its tally was down from 112 seats in 2019 to 51 this time, paving the way for the BJP's march to power. There was also speculation that Mr Pandian was emerging as Mr Patnaik's political heir, a buzz the senior leader has trashed. 

Mr Pandian said he worked hard for 12 years with focus on Naveen Patnaik and Odisha. "The only property I have is what I inherited from my grandparents. I or my immediate family have no other property anywhere in the world. The biggest earning in my lifetime has been the love and affection and goodwill of people of Odisha. My intent of joining politics was only to assist Naveen Babu and I have consciously decided to withdraw myself from active politics. I am sorry if I have hurt anyone in this journey. I am sorry if this campaign narrative against me has had a part to play in BJD's loss. I apologise to the entire Biju parivar, including all workers. My heartfelt gratitude to lakhs of Biju parivar members I am associated with," he said.

Mr Pandian signed off my saying that he will always pray for the prosperity of Odisha and "my guru Naveen Patnaik".

Earlier, Mr Patnaik defended Mr Pandian against the criticism in the wake of the poll results. "There has been some criticism of Mr Pandian. This is unfortunate," the veteran politician said. Mr Patnaik also trashed rumours that Mr Pandian could be his successor. "Mr Pandian joined the party but has not had any posts. I have always clearly said that when they asked me about my successor, I said clearly that it was not Mr. Pandian. I repeat it. The people of Odisha will decide my successor," he declared.