By Dr.Sasmit Patra; The much awaited ministerial reshuffle in the Odisha Government by Biju Janata Dal supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has taken place this afternnon. There were ten ministerial vacancies out of which nine have been sworn in by the Odisha Governor at Raj Bhawan. There nine sets of interesting patterns emerging from this reshuffle by Naveen Patnaik.
The first set is that of Prafulla Ghadei and Kalpataru Das. Both hail from Jajpur district. Ghadei is from Sukinda constituency and Kalpataru from Dharamasala. Ghadei was rumoured to have been close to Pyari. Being the number two in the cabinet, Prafulla Ghadei was also rumoured to have been the silent spectator to the coup attempt by Pyari though he had prior information. Therefore, to keep Ghadei and Jajpur district in check, Naveen brought in Kalpataru Das, a seasoned legislator and politician.
The attack on Jajpur BJD leader Rabi Hussain Gandhi by alleged supporters to Priti Ranjan Ghadei, son of Prafulla Ghadei seems to have tilted the scales against Prafulla Ghadei. The second set of Prafulla Samal and Bijayashree Routray. Samal was perceived as a strong Pyarimohan Mohapatra loyalist. Hailing from Bhandaripokhari constituency in Bhadrak district, Samal was dropped and Bijayshree Routray from Basudevpur from the same district was roped in, ostensibly to keep the balance of power of Bhadrak tilting in favour of Naveen.
Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak from Mahakalpada constituency of Kendrapada district was dropped since he was a Pyarimohan Mohapatra loyalist. To keep him and Kendrapada in check, Naveen brought in Pratap Keshari Deb of Aul from the same district. Pratap Jena, a young minister was dropped for again being a Pyari loyalist. In order to keep the balance of youth in the ministry, Naveen roped in Arun Sahu, the young Deputy Chief Whip of the BJD party in the Vidhan Sabha. Pushpendra Singh Deo from Dharmgarh in Kalahandi district was shown the door from the ministry due to his loyalties to Pyarimohan.
Former minister A.U. Singh Deo hails from Bolangir in the KBK region. Therefore the stress was on ensuring representation to the KBK region. This was done in the form of Rabi Narayan Nanda from Jeypore constituency in Koraput district. Therefore, the KBK region finds representation, not withstanding ministers Ramesh Chandra Majhi from Nabarangpur and Lal Bihari Himirika from Rayagada are also part of the undivided KBK region.
Sarada Prasad Nayak, legislator from Rourkela in Sundargarh district was also dropped due to his loyalty towards Pyarimohan Mohapatra and alleged role at the infamous meeting in Radhika Hotel and complicity in the coup attempt against Naveen Patnaik. In order to keep the Sundargarh district within the Chief Minister’s control and also keep Sarada Nayak in check; Naveen Patnaik has roped in Subrat Tarai, MLA of Raghunathpali from the Sundargarh district.
Anjali Behera, a scheduled caste woman MLA has been replaced by Sarojini Hembram, a scheduled tribe woman MLA. Here Naveen has tried to keep the caste equations in parity by bringing in a scheduled tribe for a scheduled caste and also keeping the balance of woman power within the ministry. Sanjeeb Kumar Sahoo hailing from Athmalik constituency in Angul district was removed from the ministry for being a Pyari loyalist.
Again keeping his policy of district wise control, Naveen has brought in Rajani Kanta Singh legislator for Angul constituency from the same district, thereby keeping Sanjeeb Sahoo in check and Angul district within Naveen’s control. The final set consists of A.U.Singh Deo and Damodar Rout. Both are well known loyalists of Naveen Patnaik and equally famous anti-Pyarimohan Mohapatra voices. While Singh Deo could not be brought in due to the ongoing investigation on the illicit liquor tragedy that had engulfed him in the first place, Naveen Patnaik has brought in Damodar Rout especially for the want of a die-hard anti-Pyari minister who has certain Machiavellian traits but knows his sphere of influence should be restrained to the Jagatsinghpur district.
Some ministers who seem to have escaped the axe are Surya Narayan Patro, Lal Bihari Himirika, Debi Prasad Mishra and Maheswar Mohanty. Some hopefuls who have lost out are Debasish Nayak, Ranendra Pratap Swain, Pradeep Maharathi, Ashok Panda, Debasish Samantray, Kalindi Behera, Bed Prakash Agarwal and Padmanav Behera. Naveen Patnaik’s ministerial reshuffle has taken into cognizance six factors; balance of power in district politics, women representation, youth representation, KBK region representation, Naveen Patnaik loyalists’ representation, die-hard Anti-Pyarimohan Mohapatra voices representation. A clear message has been sent out by Naveen Patnaik this afternoon that Pyarimohan Mohapatra’s loyalists will be systematically chopped, stewed and burnt on the stake; come what may.
Pyari before leaving for Delhi had thrown the challenge on Naveen to dare axe his loyalists. Naveen has picked the gauntlet and dared back to Pyari to bare his fangs on Naveen. Whether Pyari is able to bare his fangs or lay low remains to be seen. But, with this reshuffle Naveen Patnaik has clearly demonstrated that he is the one who wears the pants as far as Biju Janata Dal is concerned. Whether these axed ministers along with the disgruntled MLAs who were denied a ministerial berth congregate at Pyari’s door or lick their wounds in fear of losing their election tickets for 2014. Whether Pyarimohan opens his cards or prefers the obscurity of Delhi. While these questions abound, the fact is that Naveen Patnaik has definitely raised his bar of leadership within the Biju Janata Dal.
Pyari lost round one during the Sangma elections; he has lost round two in the ministerial reshuffle. If he continues to lose round after round, it would not be long before he is the lone man standing, without friend but with only one foe, Naveen Patnaik. The time to strike is now or never. Naveen Patnaik was playing the high stakes poker this time around and has swept the table with a strong hand. Whether Pyari is able to win back the chips is anybody’s guess.