Bhubaneswar: When many ticket aspirants for Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) started making beelines for MLA and former minister Arun Sahoo in March, it became apparent that he was a member of the party’s innermost circle of decision making for the polls. True to those impressions, the 50-year-old leader played key roles in the regional party both in the run-up to the polls and during the blistering campaigns.
Sahoo, a three-term MLA from Nayagarh, is known for sharing a close rapport with V Karthikeyan Pandian, the all-powerful private secretary of Odisha Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik. While the normally reticent Patnaik is known to stay detached from day-to-day activities of the party even during the polls, it is Pandian and a team of five others who reportedly advised him in taking crucial decisions such as picking the right candidates and bolstering the party’s campaign strategy.
The elaborate advertisement campaign that BJD unleashed on the front pages of local newspapers was conceptualized by Sahoo in close coordination with Pandian, said party insiders. Pandian, a Tamilian with inadequate understanding of Odia, is said to have relied on Sahoo in finalising the text and photographs used in those advertisements, which were splashed across the front pages of several leading Odia newspapers throughout the campaigns.
Many of Patnaik’s campaign speeches, in which he targeted the resurgent BJP, were also scripted by Sahoo, who has a PhD degree in history from North Odisha University for his research on Odisha’s Prajamandal freedom struggle movement, said people familiar with the making of BJD’s campaign strategy.
In fact, Patnaik is said to have relied on the suave and articulate Sahoo’s opinions in gauging the mood of Odisha’s youth and first-time voters. It was the result of Patnaik’s personal liking for Sahoo that the CM had made him a minister in 2014. Sahoo, who also holds a law degree, served as the minister of state (independent charge) for Panchayati Raj and Law.
“Along with Pandian and Amar Patnaik, it was Sahoo who played crucial roles in fixing the nitty-gritty of BJD’s campaigns. He has the knack of guessing the pulse of voters,” said a senior BJD leader.