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As V K Pandian exits, what next for Naveen Patnaik, BJD?

Till last week, he was the most sought-after individual in Odisha’s power corridors, giving TV interviews, taking helicopters to canvass for Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidates, and assisting Naveen Patnaik as he aimed to return to power for the sixth straight term. But by Sunday, V K Pandian was gone.

On Sunday, five days after the BJD suffered the twin debacle in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls — without any parliamentary seat and reduced to 51 out of 147 in the Assembly polls — the former IAS officer who rose to become Patnaik’s longtime confidant announced that he was quitting active politics less than seven months after he made his entry into politics. Amid growing criticism from within the BJD over his “excessive influence” on party decisions in the run-up to the polls, Pandian apologised to party workers.

“I am sorry if the campaign narrative against me had a part to play with the BJD’s loss. I apologise to the entire Biju Parivar, including all the karmis (workers),” Pandian said in a video message posted on his Instagram page on Sunday. More than development and governance, the poll campaign and the BJP’s attacks focussed on the Tamil Nadu-born bureaucrat and his alleged control over Patnaik and the party. From questioning his rise in the party to the “missing” keys of the Ratna Bhandar (treasury) of Puri’s Jagannath Temple to the alleged conspiracy behind Patnaik’s “deteriorating health”, the BJP found different ways of targeting Pandian.

Pandian is not the first BJD leader and Naveen’s close aide to whom the former CM delegated the power to run the government and party. By the time, Naveen was thrust into the limelight after his father Biju Patnaik’s death, he was 51. From 2000 to 2012, former IAS officer Pyari

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