GETTING READY to take on a fast-rising BJP in Odisha, Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik on Saturday effected the biggest-ever reshuffle in his two-decade-long political career. He got 10 of 20 ministers in his cabinet resign and announced the inclusion of 11 new members. The 11 new ministers, many of whom had served as ministers in his previous Cabinet, are expected to take the oath of office on Sunday morning.
Sources in the BJD said senior leaders Surya Narayan Patro, Pratap Jena, Niranjan Pujari, Maheswar Mohanty, Nrusingha Sahoo, Sushant Singh, Bijay Nayak, Prafulla Samal, Shasibhushan Behera, Ananta Das and Chandra Sarathi Behera will be sowrn-in at a function in Raj Bhawan at 9 am.
The inclusion of 11 names came hours after Naveen asked many of his loyalists to resign as what is being seen as punishment for their listless performance that led to the best-ever results for the saffron party in the recent panchayat elections.
Many of these 10 ministers were either in charge of districts where the BJD was almost wiped out in the panchayat elections or had posted less-than-impressive results.
Those who quit are Finance Minister Pradip Amat; Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Jogendra Behera; Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister Sanjay Dasburma; Panchayati Raj and Law Minister Arun Sahoo; Higher Education Minister Pradeep Panigrahi; School and Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra; Housing and Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo; Sports Minister Sudam Marndi; Energy Minister Pranab Prakash Das; and ST and SC Development Minister Lal Bihari Himirika
Of 853 zilla parishad seats that went to the polls in February and March this year, the BJD won 474 seats, down 178 from 2012. The BJP won 297 seats — a huge increase of 261 over the last term — and the Congress finished a poor third with 60, down by half.
“I am grateful to a number of ministers who have resigned voluntarily to work for the party. All of us in the party are very grateful to them,” Chief Minister Patnaik said on the sidelines of his meeting with elected members of various panchayati raj institutions of Kendrapara and Malkangiri.
Sources in BJD said some other ministers, such as Snehangini Chhuria (Handloom and Textiles), may also be asked to resign following the BJD’s poor performance in the panchayat polls in her Assembly segment, Attabira.
Odisha Assembly Speaker Niranjan Pujari had resigned from his post on Friday over his possible inclusion in the ministry. Pradip Amat, who quit as Finance minister, is likely to be the new Speaker.
To counter the BJP’s rise, Naveen had on Friday named many of these ministers as observers of 11 districts in the state to fortify BJD’s base at the grassroots level. While party vice-president Surya Narayan Patro has been given the charge of Bolangir, Prafulla Samal has been assigned Jagatsinghpur district.
Debi Prasad Mishra was asked to look after Sambalpur district, Pradeep Panigrahi has been entrusted with Gajapati, and Arun Sahoo with Mayurbhanj. Sanjay Dasburma has been made Nabarangpur and Rayagada in-charge, while Naveen loyalist Pranab Prakash Das was given the responsibility for Koraput and Malkangiri.