Lost in the Shuf­fle?

India Today - - STATES - By Ma­hesh Sharma

Ten in­cum­bent min­is­ters have been re­placed with new faces. The largest cabi­net reshuf­fle un­der­taken by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the 17 years it has held power in Odisha is, many be­lieve, ac­knowl­edge­ment of the BJP’s threat­en­ing ex­pan­sion in the state. Whether it will have the de­sired ef­fect of im­prov­ing the gov­ern­ment’s image and per­for­mance is up for de­bate. Many be­lieve the ex­er­cise could back­fire for chief min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik.

Al­ready, the BJD’s Sun­dar­garh district gen­eral sec­re­tary, Lala­tendu Parida, has threat­ened to en­gi­neer mass res­ig­na­tions, al­leg­ing that Pat­naik has failed to give due rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the western and south­ern dis­tricts of the state. He’s es­pe­cially miffed about the ex­clu­sion of four-time MLA and tribal leader Man­gala Kisan. There are al­ready whis­pers that some of the ‘dropped’ min­is­ters have been con­tacted by the BJP.

Even party an­a­lysts con­cede there’s a vis­i­ble re­gional im­bal­ance in CM Pat­naik’s bid to tackle the im­mi­nent saf­fron on­slaught in Odisha. Of the eight back­ward dis­tricts, just two have found rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the new cabi­net. Thir­teen dis­tricts have gone un­rep­re­sented in the shuf­fle. For in­stance, western Odisha— where dis­tricts like Kala­handi, Bolan­gir and Mayurb­hanj emerged as BJP strongholds in the Fe­bru­ary pan­chayat polls (it won 108 of the 126 seats)—was com­pletely ig­nored. Also, two tribal min­is­ters have been re­moved but not re­placed with a new tribal face.


CM Pat­naik’s strat­egy of giv­ing his gov­ern­ment a makeover in re­sponse to the BJP’s call for a ‘Naya Odisha’ may be ex­pe­di­ent from an or­gan­i­sa­tional point of view, but crit­ics say the reshuf­fle has failed in its pri­mary ob­jec­tive—to project the BJD gov­ern­ment in a new light. The BJP’s Odisha spokesman, Sa­j­jan Sharma, says Pat­naik’s ac­tion smacks of des­per­a­tion. Af­ter two decades in power, the pub­lic has grown weary of the BJD, he says.

There are al­ready mur­murs of a brew­ing re­bel­lion. Sus­pended for­mer BJD MP Jairam Pangi joined the BJP on May 9 in Bhubaneswar. Four party MLAs have openly ex­pressed reser­va­tions on party af­fairs. And not one of the 10 min­is­ters who were re­placed at­tended the swear­ing-in of their re­place­ments in Bhubaneswar on May 7. Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Nar­simha Mishra (Congress) also didn’t at­tend, and later spoke of a “tremen­dous rift within the BJD”.

Pat­naik loy­al­ists, how­ever, in­sist the cabi­net reshuf­fle will ben­e­fit the BJD in the count­down to the assem­bly polls (in 2019). The CM’s men are bank­ing on the larger-than-life image and rep­u­ta­tion Pat­naik still en­joys in Odisha. “The BJP will have to dig up an is­sue that is big­ger than Naveen Pat­naik’s image,” they say.


FRESH HAND New min­is­ter Sashi Be­hera meets CM Pat­naik at the swear­ing-in

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