Naveen Patnaik Says Criticism Against Pandian 'Unfortunate'; Praises Close Aide's 'Integrity, Honesty'

Patnaik also made it once again clear that Pandian was not his successor and that it would be the people of Odisha who will decide the successor.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and BJD leader VK Pandian (L). Photo: X/@Naveen_Odisha

Following the shocking Assembly elections result in Odisha, which brought an end to Naveen Patnaik's 24-year-long rule in the state, the BJD chief on Saturday made his first comments on his close aide VK Pandian.

Patnaik termed the heavy criticism received by Pandian to be "unfortunate", asserting that he did an "excellent job".

Amid the widespread discontent among party leaders and workers, who blamed the bureaucrat-turned-politician for BJD's poor performance in the elections, the party chief said that Pandian "is a person of integrity and honesty and should be remembered for that".

However, the five-time chief minister also made it once again clear that Pandian was not his successor and that it would be the people of Odisha who will decide the successor.

Noting that he gracefully accepted his defeat in the assembly polls, Patnaik said he would continue serving the people of the state, who are his "family", in whichever capacity possible.

"There has been some criticism of Pandian. This is unfortunate. He joined the party and has not held any post. He did not contest the elections from any constituency," Patnaik told news agency PTI.

Be it during the two cyclones or the Covid-19 Pandemic, the BJD chief said, Pandian did an excellent job in different fields in the last decade.

"After this good work, he retired from the bureaucracy and joined the BJD. And contributed largely by doing excellent work," he added.

Meanwhile, clearing the buzz over his health condition, Patnaik said his health has "always been fine and will continue to be so". "You have seen that I conducted a hectic campaign last month in the heat. And that should be enough to give a verdict on my health," he told PTI.

Patnaik expressed his deep gratitude to the people of Odisha, saying that they have showered him with blessings time and again.

In the recently concluded, Odisha Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in full force, ending BJD's 24-year-old rule.

The BJP won 78 seats in the 147-member Assembly, while the Patnaik-led party bagged 51 seats, the Congress won 14 seats and CPI(M) just one.

Three Independent candidates also lodged their victories. The BJD couldn't bag any of the Lok Sabha seats as well, with the BJP securing 20 and Congress getting one seat.

Last month, BJP's Odisha unit had also written to the state chief secretary and DGP to free CM Naveen Patnaik from Pandian's "captivity".

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Union Minister Giriraj Singh had also alleged that Patnaik was being held captive by his close aide.

(With PTI inputs)