Dilip Kumar

Bhubaneswar: Speculations are doing rounds that a possible Cabinet reshuffle for the first time in the fifth term of Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha is likely to take place in the next couple of days. If things go well, the State would witness Naveen's Cabinet in a new look in the New Year.

Sources closed to this development said that five ministers, based on their poor performance are likely to be shown the door from the Council of Ministers during the rejig exercise while some new faces are expected to included in the new Cabinet.

Buzz is in the air that the BJD supremo may act promptly on the non-performers and those who have been embroiled in different controversies.

The probable list of non-performers includes Padmini Dian, Premananda Nayak, Tusharkanti Behera, Raghunandan Das, Jyoti Panigrahi and Jagannath Sarka. This apart, experts also point that as the sensational abduction and murder of five-year-old Nayagarh girl 'Pari' hangs like a Damocles Sword on Agriculture and Higher Education Minister Arun Sahoo, he might also face music. Sahoo has been on the eye of storm of the Opposition parties for his alleged role in the controversial case.

Sources also add that some big heads are also likely to roll on during the restructuring of the Cabinet.

The development has sparked a flurry of leaders starting to lobby at their respective level for a suitable berth in Naveen’s new team.

Political analysts observe that a leader from Ganjam may be inducted into the new Cabinet after the expulsion of Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi from the party for his 'anti-people' activities. In this point of view, Speaker in the State Assembly and the former Minister Surjya Narayan Patro is said to be a front runner in the list.

It is also said that Naveen Patnaik who rewarded some new MLAs coming from BJP during elections, may replace them with some BJD heavyweights who were deprived of a Cabinet berth despite their strong political calibre and long experience due to election circumstances.

However, BJD insiders as always said that the decision of the high command in any matter will be widely acceptable in the party.

"It is the prerogative of the Chief Minister to decide who to drop and who to retain. We all would abide by whatever he decides," said Sashi Bhushan Behera, senior BJD MLA.

Political observers opine that the CM Naveen may also play a surprise card in the regard to the Cabinet expansion in a bid to the to give a checkmate to the Opposition who have continuously been levelling allegations of bureaucrats ruling the State instead of government.

Through the reshuffle, Patnaik is also said to have planned for his image makeover after scores of controversies including the recent custodial deaths/ tortures, Nayagarh Pari murder, PPE kit scam, deteriorating law and order have put the government in tizzy.

“Various allegations and controversies including alleged irregularities in PPE kit procurement, custodial deaths etc have maligned the image of the government in some extent. In order to retain a clean image, the reshuffle is expected to be taken place," senior columnist and political analyst Sandeep Sahu said.