It was only in early June last year that Naveen Patnaik had undertaken a big enough reshuffle of the Ministers soon after a resounding victory in the bypoll in Brarajnagar Assembly Constituency and after all the three nominees of BJD were elected to Rajya Sabha unopposed. Eleven Ministers were dropped including a few heavyweights like Pratap Jena, Arun Sahu, Dibya Shankar Mishra. These three had become controversial over some criminal cases into which their names got dragged.
In an exclusive chat with them, the suave Party Supremo advised them to work wholeheartedly to strengthen the Party. The massive revamping saw entry of more women legislators into the Council of Ministers raising their number to five in the total Council comprising 23 members.
After a few months of the reshuffle, the ruling Party lost the bye election in Dhamnagar Assembly Constituency; but had a huge win in the byeelection in Padampur Assembly Constituency. The byelection necessitated in Jharsuguda following the murder of the state’s Health Minister, Naba Kishore Das, resulted in a convincing win for the Ruling Party. The Party had fielded the daughter of the Minister.
A few days ago the Speaker resigned and so did two Ministers of State, giving rise to speculation of an imminent reshuffle in the Council of Ministers. Swearing-in of new Ministers is scheduled to take place on the 22nd of this month.
In the background of a big reshuffle done only a year ago, that kept the Election in 2024 in view, it looks most unlikely that the change to be made on the 22nd would be huge. Three vacancies would most likely be filled up with induction of three legislators one of whom would be the MLA who resigned from the office of the Speaker.
Women representation in the Council of Ministers at present looks reasonable but there is possibility of the youngest legislator-- the daughter of the late Heath Minister-- being made a Minister. Should that happen, this could raise possibility of a woman Minister becoming the Speaker.
There is speculation that resignation of the two Ministers of State was a well thought out move to improve public perception of the Government. There is reason to believe that Naveen Patnaik has once again responded decisively to allegations on gender related issues.
The scheduled reshuffle could be a fine-tuning exercise to strengthen the Party in pockets where needed and to checkmate the likely surge of anti-incumbency sentiments
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