Had he not been forced by circumstances to enter politics, Naveen Patnaik could certainly have made a great career in event management. The longest serving Odisha Chief Minister has few competitors among contemporary politicians when it comes to conceiving an out of box idea, staging a spectacle to showcase it and making sure that it derives the maximum possible mileage from the event. (The one politician who comes closest to him is Prime Minister Narendra Modi!)
It was no different on Monday when he launched in Chhatrapur what is touted to be the ‘world’s largest’ such programme to give land rights to slum dwellers living in urban areas of the state. The atmospherics were just perfect. The presence of Tata Group patriarch Ratan Tata and internationally acclaimed British born architect Lord Norman Foster on the dais provided the event just the kind of star presence that it needed to get the eyeballs. And both Tata and Lord Foster made just the kind of noises that would have been music to their generous host’s ears. The former described the occasion as an ‘earth shaking’ moment while the latter went into raptures over the ‘progressive Chief Minister in India’ who had come with a ‘radical legislation’. So daazled was everyone with the presence of the two international celebrities that the sheer impropriety of two people who have nothing to do with the government handing over land pattas to beneficiaries did not bother anyone! (May be they thought their association with the Odisha Liveable Habitats Mission, which was also launched on the occasion, entitled them to share the honours with the Chief Minister who, in any case, would have found handing over pattas to 2000 people an arduous task!)
Full page colour advertisements on the front pages of all newspapers ensured that the event got the kind of treatment that is normally reserved only for visits by the President and Prime Minister. It also saw to it that criticism by the opposition and other stakeholders, while not blacked out altogether, was relegated to the inside pages. The ad released was worded perfectly to showcase the government’s ‘bleeding heart’ for these important ‘stakeholders’ of urban living.