Another Tribute to the Tall Man
Today I fondly remember legendary Biju Pattanayak,the greatest and bravest leader of Post Independence period from Odisha.My father never liked Biju Pattanayak as he always felt and alleged that it is Biju Pattanayak who introduced money and muscle politics in Odisha .But I was an ardent follower of Biju Babu when I was in my college four decades back,I still continue to be though like others I do not have any intention to seek patronage of his son and present CM,Odisha Shri Naveen Pattanayak for my future political ambition. I am a Congress socialist in my life and living.
I met Biju Babu first time in 1977.Emergency was just lifted . In a public meeting at Puri Biju Babu called the students to polish the shoes of people at streets and donate the money earned in the process to Janata Party to defeat the autocratic leaders of Congress.We followed the call of Biju babu and under the leadership of Debadatta Bhai polished shoes of Kutchery Going Babus at Mochi Sahi Square,Puri.Biju Babu was our icon of heroism.
But, Janata Party Govt failed in 1980.Biju Babu’s people in Odisha lost to J B Pattanayak.I had no political aim,no direction,struggling with hunger I took up petty jobs and finally joined state government as a school headmaster at Umerkote,then in Koraput district in 1984.
Biju Babu with Prasanna Patsani came to Umerkote in 1986.He was on a marathon tour of the state.One fine morning Prasanna Patsani entered to my school campus in the party vehicle,he was aware that I am there.He took me to Biju Babu.It was on his initiative that Bijubabu visited my place and had tea with me.
Then a very interesting incidence at DNK Guest House happened..Biju Babu used to smoke a costly cigarette,probably Don Hill or Chancellor.A police officer wanted to present a packet of cigarette of Biju Babu’s choice.He just shouted ,did not accept it.He was not used to beg special assistance from central or state government ,nor to accept gifts from his subordinates.He was a very upright person.
My next meeting with Biju Babu happened in 1992 when I went to invite him to inaugurate the first ever Book Fair at State Exhibition Ground ,Bhubanerswar .He gladly accepted the invitation and wanted to know if we are inviting any author to share the dais with him.’Prof Manoj Das’.I replied .He was happy.Biju Babu was comfortable with only two Odia authors of his time,Sachi Routray and Manoj Das.
There have been several occasions that I have met Biju Babu,I had no intension to seek his favour .He lost power,but was elected from two parliamentary constituencies.So ungrateful was the party that they ignored this great national leader and made a less important leader from the south H D Deve Gowda PM of the country.
Biju Babu stayed in Odisha Nivas .I went with Prof Harihar Mishra of Political Science Deptt one evening to pay my respect to him.He was amused,very few people were coming to meet him after he lost power or was out of the power circle.
‘Why you came to meet me ? I am nowhere in the political circle,,’ Biju Babu said in a tone of grief.
‘You are our leader and will continue to be..’I replied .