Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seems set to effect an overhaul in the BJD at a time the BJP has made inroads in several tribal-dominated districts of Odisha in the zilla parishad elections. Naveen gave the first signal of bringing change on Tuesday when Rajya Sabha MP Bishnu Das tendered his resignation, only about nine months after he was sent to the Upper House. Das, a Dalit, was made deputy chairman of the State Planning Board, a largely ceremonial body. Though it is not clear why Naveen decided to bring Das back, senior party leaders said the move could be aimed at exercising more control over party MPs.
With reports that a few Lok Sabha MPs of the BJD were considering switching to the BJP for ministerial berths, Naveen is reportedly planning to send a loyalist in place of Das to watch on his flock of 28 MPs in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Party sources said Naveen was peeved that a few BJD MPs had grown close to the BJP. Last week, eyebrows rose when the leader of the BJD’s Legislature Party in the Lok Sabha, Bhartruhari Mahtab, praised Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan at the inauguration of the Odisha office of the Gas Authority of India Limited. That Naveen went to Parliament last week and returned without meeting any BJD MP has added credence to the rumours.
Sources said Naveen may send to the Upper House his sister and writer Gita Mehta, who is learnt to be taking interest in the affairs of the party. The names of former chief secretary Bijoy Patnaik and Mindtree co-founder Subroto Bagchi as possible choices are doing the rounds. Mahtab told The Indian Express that the BJD needs someone in the Rajya Sabha who can put forward the party’s views in a forceful manner. “Bishnu Das, who is a senior member of the party, is needed in the districts,” he said. Party sources said after the Budget session, Naveen is likely to shuffle the cabinet and bring new faces.