Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Keeping all apprehensions at bay, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday cleared the air by indicating that expansion-cum-reshuffle of cabinet could happen anytime. The decision gains prominence to counter the BJP that is eyeing to make rapid inroads in BJD bastions in state.

Patnaik while replying to a question on whether he would rule out a ministry reshuffle, clearly stated, “No, I will not.”

Talks on ministry reshuffle had gained ground after the below par performance of the BJD in the recently concluded panchayat polls in the state.

It will be for the first time ever since the beginning of his fourth stint as CM in 2014 that Patnaik will be going for a major expansion of his Ministry.

Highly placed sources said that many young and influential Ministers may be utilised to reorganise the party at the grassroots level. These names could include some from young brigade like Pranab Prakash Das, Arun Sahoo, Sanjay Dasburma and veteran Debi Mishra.

The reshuffle could axe several non-performing ministers-Lal Bihari Himirika, Jogendra Behera, Snehangini Churia, Sudam Marandi and Puspendra Singhdeo, sources said.

Some new faces as well as experienced ones may get the nod in the Ministry reshuffle, which may happen next week after the return of Governor Dr. SC Jamir from vacation.

Speaker Niranjan Pujari may also make a comeback in the ministry after a long time. Senior leaders Raghunath Mohanty and Panchanan Kanungo are also the frontrunners to secure minister berth in the cabinet expansion.

With BJP eyeing to captalise on its performance in panchayat polls and regular visits of Amit Shah to strengthen the party in Odisha, the cabinet reshuffle seems to be an option for the ruling BJD to tackle the resurgence of the saffron brigade.

“We will counter it well and we are very strong party. Number of ministers and other persons have told that they are prepared to go and work at the field level for the party,” Patnaik said answering newsmen.