By Sarada Lahangir

(Sarada is a senior journalist and currently working at a news channel as Deputy Editor)

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has reshuffled his cabinet by introducing 10 new faces and elevating two ministers of state to cabinet rank. During his fourth term ruling, after three years of his ministry, he has reshuffled for the first time when ten ministers had resigned on 6th May 2017 to pave the way for the chief Minister to revamp his cabinet.

Though this reshuffle is said to be a normal process in the ministry but it doesn’t look so. There are many reasons behind the redesign. For example, the poor performance of the BJD during last Panchayat poll and the rise in BJP seats in the same must have bothered BJD supremo. Second, BJP being the third largest party in Odisha is spreading its wing on the ground. The panchayat seats of BJP have gone up from 36 in 2012 panchayat poll to 296 in 2017.

Further BJP has declared in its National Executive Meeting, recently held at Bhubaneswar, that Party has been focusing on Odisha for the next general election 2019. Somewhere Naveen feels that it needs to check the BJP very strongly in next election.

Another reason was the twitter and article war followed by giving a different kind of statements in media by the BJD MPs and Rajyasabha members disclosed the internal conflict and cold war among the senior members of the party. BJD MP Tathagata Satpathy twitted alleging that BJP is trying to break the BJD party and also revealed that one BJD MP is involved in it. Though he did not mention any name but BJD MP Baijayant Panda reacted badly to his Tweet. This has created a media attention.

This cold war among the BJD MPs had never stopped there. Another Lok Sabha MP and senior BJD politician Bhartruhari Mahtab had gone one step ahead by writing two articles back to back in the newspaper where he disgustingly warned against underestimating BJP’s chances in 2019. He also wrote against his party’s deviating from its stand to remain equidistant in the Presidential elections. “In Odisha, the BJP will use its all, machinery, force and tricks. It has begun mobilising cadre at the level of the state’s 36,000 booths. This understandably has the BJP cadre inspired but the BJD is busy making statement”, he pointed out.

Theses waves of Tweets and articles might have forced Naveen Babu to warn them strongly through media saying that whatever grievances the party member have they should directly come to him.

It was also whispered in political circle that some of the BJD leaders have been leaning towards BJP. Just after 2014 election Baijayant Panda many a time Tweeted on Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising his policies and his foreign tours. It was evidently understood that ‘Jay’ had developed a soft corner for BJP. Likewise, a few months ago Bhartruhari Mahatab had openly praised Union Minister Petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan in the launching ceremony of pipeline gas connection in Odisha which raised many eyebrows in the party.

These series of incidents exposed the internal conflict and the gap between the senior and junior members of the party. Apart from this 2017 Panchayat poll results and BJP’s aggressive politics in Odisha forced Naveen Patnaik to reshuffle his ministry. The CM perhaps does not want to displease anybody neither the seniors nor the juniors. So he did a master stroke by reshuffling his ministry by asking ten ministers to step down. He promised them to give the credible responsibility of the Party.

The leaders who were taken out of the council include Pradip Kumar Amat, Debi Prasad Mishra, Lal Behari Himirika, Jogendra Behera, Pushpendra Singhdeo, Arun Kumar Sahoo, Sanjay Kumar Dasburma, Sudam Marndi, Pranab Prakash Das and Pradeep Panigrahi. To everybody’s surprise, the three young captains – Arun Kumar Sahoo, Sanjay Kumar Das Burma and Pranab Prakash Das – who were considered as the kings of the power corridor were also asked to step down. When Mr. Das Burma and Mr. Sahoo have been given the responsibility of focusing on youth affairs and students’ affairs and strengthen the segments, Mr. Das has been asked to focus on the ground.

On the other hand the Chief Minister posed confidence on the old guards like Surya Narayan Patro, Prafulla Samal, Maheswar Mohanty, Pratap Jena and Niranjan Pujari. He also inducted some of the new faces like Anant Das, Sashi Bhushan Behera, Dr Nrusingh Sahu, Sushant Singh and Chandra Sarathi Behera.

Naveen’s reshuffle strategy looks like abrupt for certain reason. Because it seems there is a serious regional imbalance in the current design. Say for example now the KBK region (consist of 8 districts of Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi) has less representation. There are only two ministers, namely Niranjan Pujari and Ramesh Majhi from the region. Some districts have two ministers. Similarly, districts like Kendrapada, Jajpur, Kandhmal and Mayurbhanj have no representation in the present council of ministers.

The leaders who lost their ministry and given the responsibility of the organisation seem not happy with the decision. Because none of them was seen in the swearing-in ceremony.

Dr Raseswari Panigrahi, MLA Sambalpur, who was also an aspirant to be a minister was denied the opportunity and today the women wing staged a demonstration in favour of her.

Considering these factors I am afraid that will Naveen’s Master stroke help BJD to keep BJP away from power in 2019?

(The opinions expressed by the author are solely his/her own and do not reflect the views of OdishaLIVE.)