Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was desperately anxious to show others that his credibility has not declined.

I had discussed this in these pages on 30th March.

Exactly as I had suspected, he has defeated a four year old boy in credibility contest even though the boy had never been made aware of the significance of such a contest!

The boy is Buddhia Singh, not even five years in age. He is the son of a wretchedly poor woman residing in a slum of Bhubaneswar. Marked for his self-confidence and readiness to brave all obstacles to hit a target, this wonderful boy has attracted world attention as the youngest but the most popular sports person of Orissa. Many a foreign forums have started shooting documentaries on him. He is such a darling of the people of Orissa that wherever he is going to participate in a marathon run, thousands and thousands of people from every nook and corner of the area, irrespective of age, stature and gender, are thronging the streets to have a glimpse of him, to welcome him. It is impossible on part of Naveen Patnaik to surpass this boy in popularity in a real contest.

Therefore a fake contest was organized by electronic media major ETV, which, notwithstanding being run by a non-Oriya owner, has been able to spread its network all over Orissa ever since Naveen Patnaik has become the Chief Minister. Another non-Oriya concern Airtel collaborated.

The contest was captioned PRIYA ORIYA, meaning Orissa’s dearest person. Selected persons were asked to suggest ten names for the contest. The organizers printed their own ballot papers, selected spots convenient to them for collecting the so-called votes, scrutinized and counted the so-called ballot papers after the stage managed polling, stored the ballot papers wherever they preferred and declared five names including Buddhia’s, as contestants in the final round.

Buddhia’s name provoked some to believe that the contest was perhaps genuine; because for any genuine Oriya this boy is certainly a dear one. But Buddhia was not made aware that his popularity was at stake in a contest against the Chief Minister. The final votes were collected through mobile phones. Buddhia has no mobile phone; he does not know how to use a mobile phone. He does not know who of the people that love him have mobile phones. He even could not support himself through a mobile phone. But according to ETV, Buddhia was surpassed in support by Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of the State! Could there be a more crude mockery of popularity contest?

It was a surprise that the Chief Minister rushed down from Delhi to receive the felicitation given to him by ETV in a grand ceremony at Bhubaneswar, for having vanquished the four year old illiterate and ignorant boy Buddhia Singh in popularity contest. Has he not been personally eager to bag such a title as PRIYA ORIYA, could he ever allow himself to accept such a felicitation in such a manner?

He told the viewers that he was very happy to be felicitated by a girl child who was born on the day he had taken oath as the Chief Minister.

But how could he not grasp the significance of a Chief Minister publicly admitting that he knew of and has known that there was a contest between him as the Chief Minister and a four year old illiterate, ignorant, wretchedly poor slum dweller boy on the question of popularity, in which he has been declared as winner? How could a Chief Minister stoop so low to enjoy his own victory over such a boy, when, in reality, the boy, whose projected defeat helped him to bag the PRIYA ORIYA title, had no knowledge of the so-called contest?

Besides telling us how fidgety has become Naveen Patnaik after media survey showed his popularity in decline, the so called PRIYA ORIYA contest also shows to what extent ETV is capable of making a farce of media activism.

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