Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s unexpected move to drop minister Rohit Pujari and transfer Secretary, Bishnupada Sethi from the Higher Education department has sent ripples across the political corridor in the State.
While the ruling BJD is claiming that Pujari has been excluded owing to the alleged poor performance of the department following a review by CM Naveen, speculations are rife that the move came after several allegations of irregularities were leveled against the duo.
Sources close to the matter believe that irregularities in the approval of grant-in-aid, kickbacks in appointment, posting and transfer of lecturers, approval of self-financing courses and deliberately impeding movement of important files could have been the reasons behind the removal of Pujari and Sethi from the department.
While the Opposition BJP has sought clarification behind such a move and demanded a Vigilance probe to ascertain if there are any irregularities, no comments could be obtained from Pujari and Sethi in this regard.
“The BJD government should clarify why it dropped Pujari from the cabinet. If there is corruption in the department, will the government order a Vigilance probe?” BJP spokesperson, Manoj Mohapatra questioned.
On the other hand, the BJD maintained that the move is due to the poor performance of the Higher Education department.
“After dropping Pujari from the cabinet, the secretary of the department was transferred. This proves CM Naveen’s seriousness toward good governance,” BJD MLA, Amar Prasad Satpathy said.
Other than alleged irregularities in the department, speculations are rife that political vendetta could also be the reason behind Pujari’s expulsion from the cabinet.
It is worthwhile to mention here that Rohit was not a part of BJD’s team for the Jharsuguda bypoll campaigning.
On the other hand, while the Sambalpur BJD president has said the elimination of Pujari from the cabinet will have no impact on politics; pundits believe that the two-time MLA may not get a party ticket.
“He (Pujari) is a legislator from our district and was district president. The party is never affected by an individual as party’s organisation runs under a mechanism,” said Sidhartha Das, Sambalpur BJD president.
“BJD is confident that anyone it fields will win the election. I doubt if Pujari will get a ticket. But his expulsion may impact Sambalpur and Jharsuguda politics,” senior journalist, Rabi Das said.