31 May 2019
Bhubaneswar: It all started on May 29, 2012 when Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's then political advisor engineered a 'coup' against the latter. At that time, Naveen was on a trip to London. On his return, Naveen successfully liquidated the botched up coup attempt but he started looking out for a trusted confidante who could replace Mohapatra.
Incidentally, on the same night a young IAS officer, VK Pandian, was celebrating his 38th birthday and metaphorically it was his re-birth as Naveen's most trusted and able confidante. Pandian joined the CM's secretariat in 2011, but it was after Pyari's episode, he acquired the undisputed role as Naveen's right-hand man.
Pandian was sharp, dynamic and politically astute. He started taking on responsibilities from the day one thereby gaining the total trust and confidence of the Chief Minister.
Naveen spotted his efficiency when he was the district magistrate and collector of Ganjam. Under Pandian, Ganjam - a poverty-stricken district which was known for a very high rate of migration - was adjudged the best-performing district in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in 2008.
In 2014 elections, when Modi wave lashed the country, Odisha remained immune. Political pundits prophesied that BJD would be routed and Naveen’s fiefdom would collapse in the absence of Pyari Mohapatra. All predictions were proven wrong and BJD mustered a landslide majority both in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
While Naveen’s persona and charisma pulled votes for BJD, effective and timely implementation of the Government programmes won trust of the voters. Pandian is an excellent administrator giving shape to the CM’s vision and planning out welfare schemes.
Given Naveen’s style of governance, many give in to the notion that it is Pandian who runs the show in the Odisha Secretariat. However, it is a myth. Naveen remains in complete command and control of the state of affairs while Pandian is the executor of the Chief Minister's will and scheme of things.
Pandian is more of a listener and a follower. While his exclusivity remains to the Governance, it is a well-known fact that he happens to be the eyes and ears of the Odisha CM, a responsibility which he has discharged, over the past seven years with trust and exceptional loyalty.
An early riser, Pandian loves to work out and stay fit. Extremely punctual and workaholic, he never misses an appointment. Despite being embedded in the power centre, Pandian has always maintained a low profile. People close to this IAS officer of 2000 batch say that his capacity to put in long hours and dispose of files is phenomenal.
Pandian was the master strategist who designed the 2019 election campaign, projecting the development programmes with precision. The CM's private secretary has a sublime sixth sense and sharp instincts. An anecdote below corroborates his intuitive abilities.
Before 2019 elections, when all the pollsters were predicting that BJD would struggle to contain the Modi wave in Odisha, Pandian shared this with a senior journalist -
“One month before the elections Pandian wrote on a piece of paper that BJD would win 111 seats in the Assembly and 13 seats in the Lok Sabha and handed it over the Chief Minister. Such was his confidence,” the journalist said.
“The Odisha election results have proven this man’s accuracy and command yet again. Pandian is certainly the man behind the statesman,” the journalist added.