Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India]: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's close aide VK Pandian said that he was inspired by the Chief Minister to join politics.
"I decided because I was inspired by the Chief Minister, the way he was into public service. And it was not a grand plan or something for me to enter," Pandian said in a free-wheeling conversation with media.
The former civil servant shared that his decision to join politics was completely unplanned and his batch-mates might have laughed when they found out that he had resigned from service and joined a political party.
"I would say that one year back if you had asked me, "Are you going to join politics?" I would have firmly said a 'no'. My batch-mates will laugh if they know that I have resigned and I have joined a party because it was not in my plan at all," Pandian said.
The ex-bureaucrat said that he noticed the love and affection of people while on a tour of the districts in Odisha, a year ago and that is when he thought he needs to go beyond the limits of "bureaucratic rules" while reaching out to the people.
"Eight, nine months back, I started touring the districts. And I saw the love and affection of people. It was very humbling. I thought that I should not be bound by bureaucratic rules in reaching out to the people. And that is the only reason why I resigned and joined, inspired by the Chief Minister. But I had no plans whatsoever to join politics. No plans," Pandian said.
Sharing more about his career-altering tour, the former bureaucrat said that he travelled to all 30 districts of the State as part of reaching out to the people when the footfall at the chief minister's grievance cell fell post-pandemic.
"I have always travelled with the Chief Minister. This time I travelled on my own to all 30 districts, 146-147 constituencies. We took this exercise because, after COVID, the footfall in the chief minister's grievance cell had reduced. We had closed the Chief Minister's grievance cell for two years because of Covid. After that it never picked up. People had stopped coming. There was very less footfall in the grievance cell. So the chief minister decided, why don't we reach out? This is the first time in a state, in any state, the Chief Minister's office went and did grievance in a decentralized manner, in constituencies, in blocks," he shared.
Pandian said that on that tour he committed to people to solve their problems in a stipulated time and all the timelines were met "magically".
"I committed to people that your problem, this problem will be solved in 10 days, this problem will be solved in 15 days, this problem will be solved in one month, the system rose to that occasion and with the Honourable Chief Minister's guidance, whatever timelines we had set, it was all being met. It was completely magical. We had thousands of petitions, all transparent way, it has been disposed of," the former civil servant said.
Pandian said his "inner call" to join politics came when he met those people that he realised the "strong connect" with them. He said he came to understand that he would not be able to reach out to them if he remains as continues to stay in the bureaucracy.
"So when I went to the people, when I met them, I realized that there is a strong connect with people. And I thought being a bureaucrat, I won't be able to reach out to them. I have to get out of bureaucracy. It was an inner call," he shared.
Speaking about being inspired by the Chief Minister he said that he has noticed the way Patnaik handles various situations and how he reacts to criticism throughout the decades which has moved him.
"I think one gets inspired being with him for more than a decade. You are working so closely with him. You get to see how he reacts to situations, how he reacts to criticism. So you get inspired by him. Perhaps something of him has rubbed in me. But you know he has a number of years of experience," he said.
Pandian said that when he joined the bureaucracy, he was allotted Punjab cadre initially in the year 2000 but after the Super Cyclone he decided to go to Odisha instead because Naveen Patnaik had taken over as the Chief Minister.
"I got Punjab cadre initially in 2000. And in 1999, Super Cyclone had hit Odisha very badly. Odisha was in a very bad shape. So there was a dilemma of which cadre I should move. So I decided to go to Odisha because Mr Naveen Patnaik had taken over as Chief Minister of Odisha. And the director of our academy said that go to Odisha, you will get great chance to work. And there is an honest person who has become Chief Minister. So you will get great scope to work. So, that's how I came to Odisha," he said.
Speaking about his first impression of Naveen Patnaik, Pandian said that he did not fit the stereotype of a political person.
"Whatever stereotype one has about a political leader, he was completely unlike. Very warm, very down to earth, very humble and had an eye for good work. He had come and he immediately appreciated me for 2-3 things. Which I thought was very nice of him to tell to such a junior officer," Pandian said.