Odisha Reshuffle: Naveen Patnaik Drops 11, Recalls 5, Takes In 5 Freshers!

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday tried a tightrope walk even as he made large-scale changes by dropping 11 ministers and inducting old and new faces to his three-year-old ministry in his fifth successive term in office, going by sources. Official confirmation is still awaited.

Naveen, who is known for keeping his legislators on tenterhooks and frequently springing surprises, started the process of revamping his ministry around noon by asking all his 20 ministers to put in their papers. Never in the past had Naveen made such a move. This triggered widespread speculation in different circles till Naveen & Co contacted the chosen ones over telephone and advised them to take oath of office and secrecy at Raj Bhavan here from 11.45 am onwards on Sunday. By late evening the picture became clearer as the list of new ministers was handed over to Governor Ganeshi Lal. The government is, however, yet to make any announcement concerning the ministry changes.

Naveen’s timing seemed quite opportune considering that the regional party won the Brajarajnagar byelection by a huge margin and the state government got a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court in the Puri Parikrama Project case the day before.

While attempting to balance youth and experience, Naveen, sources said, has gone for several MLAs who had previous experience of being ministers like Pratap Keshari Deb (Aul), Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak (Mahakalapada), Pradip Amat (Boudh), Usha Devi (Chikiti) and Pramilla Mallick (Binjharpur). He has decided to retain Nabakishore Das (Jharsuguda), Samir Das (Nimapara) Prafulla Mallick (Kamakhyanagar), Niranjan Pujari (Sonepur) Tukuni Sahu (Titlagarh), Ashok Chandra Panda (Ekamra-Bhubaneswar), Jagannath Saraka (Bissam-Cuttack), Tusharkanti Behera and Ranendra Pratap Swain (Athagarh) as ministers, sources said. The newcomers include Rita Sahu (Bijepur) Ashwini Patra (Jaleswar), Pritiranjan Ghadai (Sukinda), Rajendra Dholakia (Nuapada), Srikant Sahu (Polsara), Basanti Hembram (Karanjia) and Rohit Pujari (Redhakhol), sources added. Of the 21 new ministers to be sworn in, 13 will be of cabinet rank while eight – Samir Das, Ashwini Patra, Pritiranjan Ghadai, Srikant Sahu, Tisharkanti Behera, Rohit Pujari, Rita Sahu and Basanti Hembram, will be given minister of state rank, official sources further informed.

While outgoing minister and Bhanjanagar MLA Bikram Keshari Arukh is speculated to replace Surjya Narayan Patro as Speaker of the Odisha Legislative Assembly, Jagatsinghpur MLA Prashant Muduli is expected to take over as government chief whip from Pramilla Mallick. Both Arukh and Patra (Digapahandi) represent undivided Ganjam district. Similarly, Patnagarh legislator Saroj Meher is tipped to replace Pujari as the government deputy chief whip.

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