Without a bit of doubt, Naveen has surpassed his legendary father the colossal Biju Patnaik in political popularity. Until after Bijubabu was gone, Naveen Patnaik was not even known to people. Many imagined Bijubabu has named his Bhubaneswar house ‘Naveen Niwas' only fancifully.
Biju Patnaik had ventured into countless human activities that bring both money and fame. But he had never excelled in any of the two until his last days when he had virtually no money but enormous fame as a popular leader who was passionate about development of Odisha and its people. His elder son Prem is fairly well-known for having tried in vain to run the then family-controlled Kalinga Tubes, a leading steel pipe manufacturing company in Asia until the late 1960s. Biju's only daughter, globally-famous author Gita, has always been in news for some bestselling books. Surprisingly, Naveen was never in news as a Biju son.
In the Nineties of the last century, a Sunday supplement of an English daily had carried a story on unsung achievers, introducing Naveen as a great painter, socialite and author of three books written after extensive research --‘Second Paradise' on the delightful Indian rural life, ‘Desert Kingdom' chronicling some dramatic events of the Bikaner princely state and ‘Garden of Life' making popular many of the popular
Indian herbal plants and shrubs that heal the sick easily successively in 1985, 1990 and 1993. Incidentally, Jaquilin Kennedy Onassis edited Naveen’s books with great pleasure and pride.
Naveen grew up away from Odisha in the north of India. No wonder, his mastery over Hindi, Punjabi and English is commendable. He also speaks French quite fluently. He was educated at the Welham Boys' School in Dehradun before being put in the prestigious Doon School. He attended the Kirori Mal College under the Delhi University, where he got his Bachelor of Arts degree.
Naveen entered politics at the age of 51 in 1997 and became Chief Minister in 2000. When he took over the reigns, Odisha was in a very bad shape after the devastating Super Cyclone of 1999. Naveen has never looked back. He is the most unique among the three longest-serving Chief Ministers, Chamling of Sikkim Jyoti Basu of West Bengal and himself.
None other than him have enjoyed the ascending order of popularity in the successive elections.
Naveen is extremely popular for never having got out of his trademark kurta-pyjmas and the inexpensive Kolhapuri chappals no matter what the clime or culture he is in. His biggest asset, as even his bitterest detractors endorse, is his reticent behaviour and non-reaction to worst-worded criticism by opponents on any front.
He has not changed his behaviour or stance ever since he became Odisha boss.
What many people may not know about him:
The longest-serving CM of Odisha doesn’t own a mobile phone. In 1988, Naveen played a small role in an English adventure movie titled ‘The Deceivers' by Merchant Ivory.
Till the age of 50, he travelled to the United States frequently and other places once in a while. He was a compulsive traveller to explore the world around him.
He owned a boutique named “Psychedelhi” at the Oberoi hotel with big celebrities including Mick Jagger, ‘The Beatles' and Jaquelin Kennedy Onassis as private friend clients only because of Naveen’s exclusive sense of beauty and aesthetics.
Naveen is a most gifted left-hand painter about which he never boasts or screams owing to his simple, sober ways of life. He hasn’t had much time in years now for many of his personal hobbies and pastimes as development politics takes away much of his creative time.
Naveen is a health freak who loves papaya or some simple nonexotic fruit juice in the morning.
He loves his privacy so much as to keep his personal likes and dislikes to himself. Except matters relating to pro-poor political adminstration, he ensures nothing else about him reaches the public discussion forums.
Naveen was born in Cuttack to Biju and Gyan Patnaik in 1946 on this day, October the 16. He is wiser by yet another meaningful year as he turns 74. May God give him many more healthy, happy years!