Biju Babu was a “TALL” leader, a giant, a pioneer and a pathfinder. He was a statesman with vision and a true leader of masses. I have been fortunate to have some personal insights regarding this wonderful personality which I would like to share by penning them down.
I am from BJB College. Once Biju Babu had come there and spoke to us. He said, “Why are my sisters and daughters standing in hot sun, organisers pl note for future”. He then spoke of population control and requested all to go in for family planning. He spoke about unemployment and said that he will give us 1000 jobs, but by the time he does so, we stupid chaps will give birth to 10000 kids. Said that these are issues which all have to tackle , not only those in Government. Imagine a leader speaking like this to 16-17 year students and that too in 1990. Fantastic.
After BJB College I went to Delhi University. Once at Orissa Bhawan New Delhi, i was walking downstairs with a classmate Ranjib and we sensed a buzz. Turning back, we saw JB Patnaik walking down leisurely and Biju Babu behind him. Biju babu who walks faster went passed JB and got into the earmarked car of JB Patnaik. The perplexed driver looked at JB, who with a wave of his hands indicated him to carry on and take Biju babu and that he will go in another car. That was the magnetic personality of this tall leader
My relative was his Doctor. Once he told him, Sir, please slow down on your eating, you are eating omelette with 6 eggs, thats not good for u. Biju Babu exploded with anger “What kind of Doc are u, u should make me fit so that I can go back to having omelette with 12 eggs”. A friend’s brother in law had treated him for some time and at a time when he was unwell and supposed to be in bed the doctor walked in to find him with his favorite sukhua (dry salted fish), mutton and chicken – and he made him eat with him without any discussion. Legend is that he was able to eat 1 kilo of mutton by himself-as one of the food items.
As CM he once wrote a letter to the PM starting with “My dear Narasimha”. His IAS Secy hemmed, hedged and finally blurted that he should write Sir. Biju Babu frowned and said, “Arre he is my junior and he calls me Sir”. The officer replied that it is from chair of CM to chair of PM. Biju Babu told him Get out and the officer quietly left the room. 5 minutes later Biju babu called him back and said that he had reconsidered and the officer was correct. Amazing
My Dad was Chief Engineer and once I was with him for a Bridge inauguration event by Biju Babu. CM spoke about various issues of health, employment, centre-state relations, about the pending work he wants to do, about the meeting he had with PM week back and the week following- and what he will get for Orissa in the meeting. Then he completed his speech with a single sentence, “Ah, I have come for bridge inauguration, I am sure engineer babu and his staff must have done their work well, I will also tell Kaalia ( Lord Jagannath) so that the bridge serves the people of Orissa for more than 100 years, I am going for meeting with PM, Thanks all of you”.
Biju babu was very fond of my dad as roads were good in his time and my dad was chief Engineer roads for 3 years. My dad had only 1 month service left and was due for promotion. Biju babu called him and asked “why will I make you works secretary and not your successor who has 4 years 6 months”. My dad replied that as CM it is his prerogative but for three reasons he staked his claim; firstly the officer who has 4 years 6 months can also achieve whatever he wants in 4 years 5 months but in 30 days I too can contribute, secondly as an honest person he will gain by 150 rupees pension per month (in 92) and finally for a non ias secretary to state government is the highest post a state government engineer can aspire for and he will remember Biju babu to help him realise his dream. Biju babu looked at my dad for a few seconds , picked up the phone and said “I had asked 2 draft orders , put up Misra’s order and make him secretary “.
Like nowadays those days too there were lot of complaints about doctors that they used to do operations in nursing homes and not in government hospitals. My father in law was due for promotion as Professor Surgery. So Biju Babu who was CM sent his driver to check and his driver asked my father in law that he doesn’t mind being operated in nursing home. The reply was “why not in SCB Medical college, why do u want to waste money”. The next day promotion order was out
Before joining IRS, I was working with NALCO and attached with the CMD. Once Biju Babu called up the Chairman and recommended someone for a MT ( Management Trainee) job. That chap unfortunately could not clear the written. The CMD was perplexed how to say No to Biju Babu. After 2 days the he decided to personally go and tell him. Biju Babu said that he was very happy and would have been furious if the written exam conducted by a national agency would have been manipulated. He then added, “of course if he would have got through the written, then it would have had to be done and I would not have taken no for an answer”
I still remember that day 17th April 1997. I was in office and my boss suddenly said “I got the news Biju babu is no more, we are not working today ,lets leave office to pay our respects to him”. The spontaneous procession of lakhs will always be in my memory. Today is the 100th birth anniversary of this remarkable trailblazer and trendsetter, a straight talking and decisive leader on a mission. He is Immortal.