Mrunal Manmay Dash

Odisha politics took an unexpected albeit interesting turn on Friday after the Speaker of the Odisha Assembly, Bikram Keshari Arukha, and two other ministers resigned from their positions. While the resignations hinted at a possible reshuffle in the Cabinet, the delay in the decision has set the rumour mill rolling.

In fact, the Opposition has alleged that the government is dilly-dallying in appointing new ministers because they have not finalised which rebel MLAs are to be rehabilitated.

BJP MLA, Subash Panigrahi said, “Ousting ministers who have serious allegations against them and inducting new faces is a drama the BJD is playing here in Odisha. The ministers are changed only to rehabilitate rebel MLAs.”

"No minister has any role to play in Naveen Patnaik's government. The cabinet is reduced to only a rubber stamp. The BJD has devised plans to fight the 2024 elections using the government machinery," said Congress MLA, Sura Routray.

However, the BJD denied allegations of any purposeful delay in reshuffling the cabinet.

Revenue minister Pramila Mallik said, “The decision lies solely on CM Naveen Patnaik. Whenever he distributes the portfolios, the ministers have to take charge of that department.”

On the other hand, political analysts indicated that the party might be analysing all the equations taking the rebel MLAs into consideration.

“The party has many MLAs aspiring to get tickets in the coming elections, and it will result in rebellion with some of them putting the party in an awkward situation. The delay in appointing new ministers indicates that the party is still putting the equations together to ensure minimum damage during elections,” said political analyst, Prasanna Mohanty.

It is being discussed that one or two faces from western Odisha may be taken into the cabinet and the name of newly-elected Dipali Das is doing the rounds.

At the same time, the names of legislators Susant Singh, Sarada Nayak, Prashant Muduli, Debi Prasad Mishra, Uma Samantray, and Bikram Keshari Arukha are also being discussed to be in the race.

Similarly, in the race for the Speaker’s seat, the names of Amar Satapathy, Sashi Bhushan Behera, Debi Prasad Mishra, Prafulla Samal, and Niranjan Pujari are cropping up.

With less than a year left for the Assembly elections, all eyes are on CM Naveen Patnaik to see who all are getting the ministerial berths and BJD tickets.

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