ECI Transfers V K Pandian’s Wife Sujata Karthikeyan From Odisha’s Mission Shakti Dept

Bhubaneswar: The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday ordered the transfer of secretary of Odisha’s Mission Shakti department Sujata R Karthikeyan to a non-public dealing department with immediate effect.

She is the wife of BJD leader V K Pandian, who took a plunge into state politics after taking voluntary retirement from All India Civil Services in October 2023.

The order was issued within hours of the BJP accusing the 2000-batch IAS officer of ‘actively’ operating as an agent of the ruling BJD in the state.

In its representation to the ECI, the saffron party stated that she was “misusing” her position and SVEEP of the Election Commission to influence around 70,000 women attached with self-help groups under Mission Shakti for “electoral gains of BJD”.

SVEEP is the flagship programme of the Election Commission of India for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in the country.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the serving IAS officer has given a go-bye to professionalism and is actively indulging as an agent of the BJD because of the influence of her husband on her. It would have been fair and proper for her to understand the implications of her being the wife of Pandian and, further understanding his role in the overall gamut of ongoing elections, she should have proceeded on leave and disassociated herself from anything to do with public dealing during the elections,” it said, demanding that she should not be given any responsibility till the assembly election and the Lok Sabha polls are over in the state.

The BJP delegation included Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Rajeev Chandrasekhar and senior BJP leader Sudhansu Trivedi and Om Pathak.

Notably, Naveen Patnaik-led BJD has been successful in garnering female votes ever since his government started Mission Shakti, a programme to strengthen women self-help groups, in 2001. It was turned into a directorate in April 2018 and carved out as a separate department on June 1, 2020, with Sujata Karthikeyan at its helm to exclusively work for around 70 lakh rural women associated with nearly six lakh women self-help groups (SHGs) created under the Mission Shakti movement.

The party had also tried politically empower such women by giving them tickets in elections and making a loud propaganda of their successes.

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