Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's close aide and former IAS officer V Karthikeyan Pandian on Monday formally joined the ruling Biju Janata Dal, in the presence of the chief minister, state ministers, lawmakers and senior BJD leaders. Pandian has been known to be a confidant of Patnaik, with some even saying that he is Patnaik's possible successor.
The 2000-batch IAS officer sparked several controversies and was also accused of violating the service rule. He had taken voluntary retirement from government service on October 23 this year. He was later appointed as the chairman of the state's flagship 5T (transformational initiative) and Navin (new) Odisha scheme in the rank of cabinet minister to work directly under the chief minister.
VK Pandian’s early career
VK Pandian began his bureaucratic career in 2002 as the sub-collector of Dharmagarh in Kalahandi district. He then served as the collector of the Mayurbhanj district from 2005, and in 2007 he was appointed as the collector of Ganjam.
Pandian is known for being a driving force in executing large-scale infrastructure projects in the state like the Sri Jagannath Heritage Corridor. The project aims to construct a 75-metre-wide corridor surrounding the ancient Shree Jagannath Temple, enhancing both its visibility and security. Other major infrastructure projects that he oversaw was transforming SCB Medical College Hospital into an AIIMS-plus institution and the Bhubaneswar Metro Project.
The former IAS officer was also known to have a final say in implementation of programmes related to all departments in his role as the 5T Secretary. The 5T initiative aims to bring transparency and teamwork to government departments in Odisha.
Although he had not officially joined the ruling party as a functionary before this, members of both the ruling BJD and the Opposition have acknowledged Pandian's crucial role in driving the electoral success of the Chief Minister. Opposition leaders have often criticised the Chief Minister for almost taking a backseat in the state's electoral politics and challenged Pandian to actively participate in party politics rather than remaining on the sidelines.
Congress communication in-charge Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet, "It is good that a de facto situation will finally become a de jure one, and Pandian will become a political figure in his own right. It was a strange situation in Odisha for over a decade and a half with the CM being like an absentee landlord and his chief aide functioning as the state's CEO."
The former IAS officer also courted quite a few controversies. Opposition parties attacked him for taking a tour of several districts using the state chopper, alleging that he overstepped his authority. He reportedly held over 190 meetings to hear public grievances. Following this, the BJP and the Congress had asked him to resign and "officially join the BJD".
BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi petitioned the DoPT and sought punitive action against the 49-year-old officer over alleged violation of All India Service (Conduct) Rules. She alleged that he was crossing the red line and should formally join politics after resigning from IAS.