Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Today is the birthday of late lamented Janaki Ballav Patnaik (JB), who had given Orissa the first ever stable administration after premature death of the incompetent and corrupt government of Janata Dal led discernibly by Nilamani Routray, but clandestinely by Biju Patnaik.
Routray Govt. remote-controlled by Biju Patnaik, had so much ruined the State that in the May, 1980 elections, people had thrashed his party, then in a new attire styled Janata-S (Charan Singh) to dust by limiting it to only 13 seats in the 147-seated Assembly.
Led by JB, the Congress Party had bagged 117 seats. JB left the Union Cabinet, to take oath as Orissa’s Chief Minister on 9.6.1980 and entered the Assembly as a member winning a by-election from Athgarh and continued to lead Orissa till 7.12.1989.
During this entire period I was his arch political opponent in his Constituency. My demand for water to every inch of cultivable land instead of investment in industry, was the crux of my challenge to him.
His slogan – “A thousand industries in a thousand days with a thousand crores of Rupees from the State” – and the Industrial Policy he promulgated, had generated an environment of mass interest in small and medium scale industries, consequent upon which, middle class interest in Agriculture had started waning in Orissa.
Therefore, I was opposing JB as strongly as possible on my part. Tussle with a Chief Minister was not easy in any respect. Sycophants in power – administrative and judicial – had almost transformed the Athgarh jail to my residence. Police was by and large supporting me; yet I was being implicated in false Police Cases. But, I believe, he was not involved with this; because all my demands were being promptly attended to. Even the Mundali Bridge that connects Athgarh with Bhubaneswar was the result of his ready willingness to my proposal.
He was so very magnanimous that, when he took over the reign for the third time, after a five-year-long turmoil Biju Patnaik’s misrule had put our people to, he had sent a senior officer to my official residence in Bhubaneswar on April 1, 1995 to ascertain as to what should be done for development of agriculture in Orissa and had accepted my suggestion for formulation of a policy on agriculture, putting priority on irrigation, to begin with.
As his political opponent, I am the most informed person to say, his passion for politics was guided by his passion to usher in welfare for the people, which in Orissa could have been enormous, had his close colleagues and relatives not been overambitious.
Yet, it is he, who could, sans any reservation, be described as the only practical politician to have ever ruled over Orissa.
I am sure, had he not gone into the elements, he would have joined us wholeheartedly in the Bhasha Andolan for governance of Orissa in Oriya.
He was a born journalist. From Prajatantra group to Pourusha, his journey was full of journalistic splendor.
When, therefore, Janaki Ballav Smaraki Pratisthan, Cuttack requested me to accept its coveted award for journalism – The Janaki Ballav Sambadika Sammana – on his 2nd death anniversary on 21 May 2017, I had instantly agreed.
I do not believe in death. Mrutyrnastiti – No Death – says Sanatsujata in Mahabharat. Death is a natural development of life, says the greatest son of Orissa, Gurudev Buddha. Hence to me, JB was born, and born to live despite death.
As a token of gratitude to the torchbearers of his legacy, I post below the citation of the Sammana they had conferred on me for excellence in journalism. This is carved on copper. The text is also posted for easy reading.