He’s fondly called the ‘4 a.m. officer’ for supervising the progress of the Odisha government’s flagship Jagannath Temple Heritage Corridor project.
This man VK Pandian has carved his own niche in a land where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is the cult figure.
Hired as Patnaik’s private secretary in 2011, Pandian, an IAS officer, started becoming a household name for his administrative and political acumen.
Last month, he took voluntary retirement to start a new role as cabinet-rank minister, fuelling speculations that he was aiming at something higher.
That he would continue to scale new heights was a no-brainer.
It comes as no surprise that Pandian has been appointed chairman of the state government’s 5T (good governance model) and ‘Ama Odisha, Nabin Odisha’.
True to his wont, Pandian visited Puri in the early hours of Friday and reviewed the Srimandir Parikrama Project, the beautification of the iconic Jagannath temple in Puri.
Undeniably, Pandian’s stellar rise is founded on his closeness with Patnaik. As The Wire mentions in an article, “His (Pandian’s) efficiency and management skills were the talk of the power corridors in Bhubaneswar, with almost every move of the chief minister bearing his stamp.”
“Pandian has been the eyes and ears of the chief minister for the last 12 years. In the initial years, he took utmost care to ensure that he did not step out of his boss’s shadow, but slowly his activities earned public attention and brought him into focus,” it adds.
Their interdependency couldn’t be missed. Prasanna Mishra, a retired IAS officer who writes on social and economic issues, believes that Patnaik’s dependence on Pandian for his party’s political affairs was getting obvious (Source: Business Standard).
Back to Pandian’s appointment as the state’s 5T chairman, the role is a reward for the stupendous work he has done in this field.
The Business Standard outlines that Pandian, using state-sponsored helicopters, travelled the state in his capacity as 5T secretary for the previous six months until September, making connections with locals. The 5T initiative is a broad programme designed to expedite project completion.
During Pandian’s tour, 57,085 complaints were received, most of them from rural Odisha, where 80% of the state’s people live. According to the CMO, 65.71% of the complaints had their issues resolved. He also went over problems with electricity and drinking water.
A study by the Association for Democratic Reforms conducted ahead of the 2019 elections found drinking water (43%), water for agriculture (43%), and better employment opportunities (41%) as three priorities for voters in rural Odisha, the business daily highlighted.
“From water supply to agriculture and road connectivity, the government is focusing on rural Odisha, a significant vote base for the ruling party,” Brahmananda Satpathy, senior political science professor, was quoted as saying by the daily.
BJP MP and former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi believes Pandya’s elevation was a given. Sarangi says, “He secured the rank of cabinet minister for soft-landing in politics.”
He added, “Pandian’s acceptance among people suggests he is there to finish the unfinished agenda of Patnaik.”