Bhubaneswar: Three hours before the counting of votes was to begin, Amar Patnaik was busy at his simple home-cum-office in Bhubaneswar’s Palaspalli area. Poring over a chart showing the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) preparations for the counting day, he was asking his aides if the people selected to be the party’s representatives at certain counting centres were trained well. He was looking for feedback from across the state, just like he did during the party’s campaigns led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
It was Amar Patnaik who, along with the chief minister’s influential private secretary V Karthikeyan Pandian, played a crucial role in planning and implementing the regional party’s campaign strategy. A former bureaucrat who joined the BJD in August last year, a month after taking voluntary retirement from his cushy job as a principal accountant general, the 52-year-old heads the party’s IT cell.
Five months before the polls, Amar Patnaik rejigged the BJD’s social media strategy and helped turn thousands of workers of the party into its social medial warriors. As the convener of the party’s manifesto committee, he provided several inputs that went into the making of the manifesto.
BJD won a landslide victory in the Assembly polls, bagging 112 of the total 147 seats and paving the way for Naveen Patnaik, 73, to embark on a historic fifth term in power in the coastal state.
Counted among a handful of men trusted by both the chief minister and Pandian, Amar Patnaik was also entrusted with the task of coming out with catchy and simple slogans in Odia. One such slogan – “Naveen mo’ paribara, shankha mo’ chinha” (Naveen is my family member, the conch shell is my symbol) – adorned countless hoardings across the state along with pictures of the four-term CM. These slogans are believed to have helped retain the party’s core support base of lower middle classes with it while expanding its reach to other sections among the electorate.
“As the head of the BJD’s social media cell, Amar Patnaik spiced up the party’s social media presence. He made sure that no one trolls BJD’s rivals like a certain party has been doing. He stressed on highlighting the many achievements of the Naveen Patnaik government,” said a a senior member of the party’s IT cell who worked closely with him.
A key member of the BJD’s core circuit of poll strategists, Amar Patnaik was often present in the party’s “war room” operating out of Naveen Nivas, the chief minister’s residence. He also managed the nine surveys the party conducted through professional agencies over a year to take voters’ feedback on sitting MPs and MLAs and potential candidates. These surveys and the action plan that Amar Patnaik prepared from them ultimately went into the picking of candidates, said BJD insiders.