Rashmi Ranjan

With the ruling Biju Janata Dal all set to complete three years of its fifth term on 29 May 2022, speculations are rife about a possible reshuffle in the council of ministers in the State ahead of the general elections 2024.

Talks in the power corridor are abuzz that CM Naveen Patnaik’s cabinet might see at least 50 per cent reshuffle with possibility of more than 10 ministers being shown the doors during the rejig.

Sources said, the sword of Damocles may fall on some of the prominent faces in the council of ministers like Bikram Keshari Arukha, Padmanav Behera, Prafulla Mallick, Sudam Marandi, Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi, Padmini Dian, Premanand Nayak, Raghunandan Das and Tushar Kanti Behera.  Besides, Minister - Arun Sahoo, Pratap Jena and Dibya Shankar Mishra, who are facing the heat after finding themselves embroiled in controversies, may face the axe during the rejig.

It is also believed that, Patnaik may also exclude some ministers, in the good books, from the council and give them organisational duties keeping in view the crucial general polls in two years time.

Notably, Patnaik had executed a similar exercise after 2017 panchayat polls during which he axed 10 out of 20 ministers in his government. Five of the ministers who were excluded from the council were given responsibilities of the BJD's district units. 

Political analysts point this fact as the major reason behind the party's success in the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The BJD won 114 out of 147 assembly seats.

The ruling BJD MLAs who have performed extremely well in the recently concluded panchayat and urban elections, are likely to be rewarded with ministerial berths while some ministers may lose their position for failing to achieve the targets in the twin polls held in February and March this year.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik too has asked all ministers to submit performance reports of their departments which has added to the speculation of a possible ministry reshuffle. Patnaik is likely to judge the performance of the ministers from their actions towards fulfilling the promises made by the ruling BJD in its election manifesto.

A section of BJD MLAs argue that the ministry reshuffle is imminent as Patnaik has not gone for any changes in the council of ministers for last three years even as some ministers have earned a bad name for the party as well as the government. 

“We regularly submit report card to the CM to keep him updated about how the departments are performing. It will be Chief Minister’s decision on allotment of ministerial berths,” said minister Jagannath Saraka.

Similarly, BJD MLA Umakanta Samantaray said, “I cannot tell anything about the cabinet reshuffle. Party supremo will decide whom to include in the cabinet."

However, political pundits assume that those who are close to the power centre may get the ministerial berth.

“It is believed that those who are more inclined towards the power centre will get ministerial berth during the reshuffle,” said Prasanna Mohanty, senior journalist.