Naveen Patnaik not out of the woods yet
By Bijay Chaki - BHUBANESWAR
Published: 29th Jul 2012 11:00:06 AM
The Presidential election may have passed without giving Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik any headaches as the anticipated cross-voting by dissidents in the party did not take place. But greater challenges await Patnaik in the coming days.
The immediate task before him though is the much-awaited reshuffle in the ministry which is likely during the next week. The buzzword is that Patnaik may change the portfolios of several ministers and drop some besides filling up the five vacancies in the ministry. Though there is no hint as yet about the composition of the ministry after the reshuffle, sources maintained that the chief minister will try to balance between experience and new blood.
With General Elections less than two years away, experienced and capable ministers besides freshers are required to steer the BJD to safety. In fact, the BJD chief has a double task to achieve before he prepares for the 2014 polls.
And what he does in the next five months will count.
Though Patnaik has won three consecutive elections in 2000, 2004 and 2009, political observers say that the next election will be a different ball game altogether after the exit of Rajya Sabha MP Pyarimohan Mohapatra from the centrestage of BJD politics. His first objective is to win the urban body polls next year, of course. He could manage the affairs in the recent panchayat polls but then Mohapatra was still very much involved. Now suspended and declared a rebel, Patnaik will have the challenge of choosing his candidates, chalk the strategies, mount campaigns and of course, negate any counter moves by the rebels.
For that he would need experienced and efficient ministers whose numbers in the Patnaik ministry can be counted on finger tips not only for the strategy making process but also to handle the affairs in and out of the State Assembly as the opposition political parties are breathing down its neck over several acts of omission and commission. The senior ministers—Surjya Narayan Patro, Prasanna Acharya, Prafulla Chandra Ghadei, Raghunath Mohanty and Debi Prasad Mishra—have come to the rescue several times in the past in the Assembly when the going was tough.
As a regional political party, the credit for every achievement in the BJD has gone to Patnaik in the past. This time around, however, it will be different and seniors will have to contribute their might in refurbishing the image of the party as well as the government before the urban body polls since BJD has to be seen as a cohesive unit first, not one which is in war with itself. For that the organisational polls, scheduled by the end of the year, will hold great significance.
“While Naveen will have to see that the party organisation is functioning as a well-oiled machine, he has the job of dealing with dissidents and rebels during that process since they may wait for the opportunity to spoil his party,” said a BJD insider.
After waiting for the Presidential elections to be over, the chief minister has now started the cleansing operation in both political as well as the bureaucratic level. Patnaik recently dismissed chiefs of three state-owned public sector undertakings and a member of the Planning Board considered to be close to Mohapatra. Besides, chiefs of 24 cooperative societies, some of them considered close to the suspended Rajya Sabha MP, were removed on July 25.
Talks of a reshuffle have dragged on because of the five vacancies in the ministry. Though late, the fact that the chief minister has started the cleansing process has become evident from the July 27's reshuffle among the district collectors and last week's changes of the senior IPS officers.
As the cleansing process is almost over except for some organisational changes at the district level of the BJD, Patnaik now faces the tough task of the cabinet reshuffle. Sources said that the chief minister is taking such a long time in finalising the new team of ministers as this will be the last major change before the 2014 elections.