Odisha CM Choice Suspense Lingers: Suresh, Manmohan Frontrunners; Deputy CM Formula Possible

Bhubaneswar: With less than 48 hours to go for the swearing-in ceremony, suspense is building over who the BJP would pick as its first chief minister of Odisha.

Speculation has been abounding over the likely CM since the saffron party pulled off a surprise by winning 78 of 147 Assembly seats in Odisha, while contesting the polls without a chief ministerial face under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party has the track record of springing surprises in picking chief ministers. In the recent past, it humbled many winners who considered themselves to be ‘CM material’ by handing over the reins to their much younger colleagues in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

Will it keep this trend going in Odisha, or, pick a experienced hand to fulfil its promise to take the state to heights of progress?


Suresh Pujari, who won the Assembly elections from Brajrajnagar in Jharsuguda district, is being perceived to be ahead in the CM race after he received a call from the central leadership in Delhi. The senior leader had served as the state BJP president in 2006 before assuming the responsibility of BJP National Secretary and Sah-Prabhari of the party in West Bengal. He was also elected as Bargarh MP in 2019 elections.

The BJP can play the western Odisha card by picking Pujari as the CM.

Similarly, the name of Odisha BJP unit president Manmohan Samal is also being discussed though he lost the Assembly polls from Chandbali by a narrow margin. Samal has earned the distinction of heading the party as it stormed to power in the state. He had also vehemently opposed any pre-poll alliance with the BJD, which led to its success. However, he will have to fight the by-election if BJP decides on his name for the post.

The possible pick of a dark horse is also very much on the cards, confided party sources.

Outside-The-Box Contender

An unexpected name also took the centre stage amid the buzz regarding the party’s chief ministerial pick. It was Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and ex-Lieutenant Governor of J&K Girish Chandra Murmu.

Senior BJP leader and party’s Odisha in-charge Vijaypal Singh Tomar, however, said he has no knowledge about it and made it clear that everything relating to the new Chief Minister will be decided in the legislature party meeting. “There is nothing of that sort. I have no knowledge about it. Everything will be decided in the BJP legislature party meeting,” he told the media on Monday.

A retired IAS officer of the 1985-batch Gujarat cadre, Murmu was born in Betnoti in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district and holds a postgraduate degree in political science from Utkal University here. He was the second tribal person from Odisha to rise to a gubernatorial position after President Droupadi Murmu, who became the Jharkhand governor in 2015.

Taking No Risk With MPs

Swearing-in of Dharmendra Pradhan as a Cabinet minister in Narendra Modi 3.0 government has put a lid on his name, which was most discussed for the CM post considering his experience and ability. The party, however, decided to keep Dharmendra, who handled important portfolios like petroleum and education in the last two terms, at the Centre.

Though names of other heavyweights, who won the Lok Sabha polls, has also been doing the rounds, the party may not opt for them for the top post as it has not been able to secure a majority by its own in the Lower House and going for a by-election can bring the numbers down. Besides, it will pave the way for an Assembly by-poll.

Two Deputy Prime Ministers?

Speculation is rife that the BJP might pick two deputy chief ministers as has been the case in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Names of MLAs-elect Surama Padhy (Ranpur) along with KV Singhdeo (Patnagarh), Mohan Majhi (Keonjhar), and Rabi Narayan Naik (Kuchinda) are doing the rounds for the two posts.

If a consensus is reached on Pujari’s name as the CM, the BJP, however, is unlikely to go for any leader from western Odisha as his deputy.

How Will BJP Cabinet Look Like?

The BJP government in Odisha can have 12 to 14 Cabinet ministers. Leaders, representing different regions in the state with a mix of experience and youth, may make the cut. Women and leaders from SC/ST may also find place in the council of ministers of the party’s first government in Odisha.

Notably, the BJP has appointed Rajnath Singh and Bhupender Yadav as observers for election of the leader of its 78-member legislature party in Odisha. The two Union Ministers will attend the BJP legislature party meeting to be held on Tuesday. However, the power to pick the head of the government largely lies with the BJP parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body of the party. The legislature party meeting might have to simply put its stamp of approval on the nomination finalised by it, sources in the party said.

This was confirmed by Samal when he told the media that none is in the CM race and the BJP’s parliamentary board will take the final call on it.

The new BJP government is scheduled to be sworn-in on June 12 at 4.45 pm. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Bhubaneswar at 2.10 pm and proceed to Raj Bhavan from the airport. He will reach Janata Maidan later to attend the oath-taking ceremony.


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