Naveen 5.0: Younger outlook, inequities galore

13 districts have no representation, only 4 ST & 2 SC are sworn in the Council of Ministers

Bhubaneswar:  As the fifth term of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik begins today, a younger looking council of ministers have taken oath along with the CM. But the ministerial council mirrors a skewed outlook as a high of 13 districts have no representatives in the Council of Ministers.

Moreover, the CM seems not to have given a serious consideration to adequate representation of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in his first ministerial council of his fifth tenure. The council has a total of 4 STs and 2 SC ministers.

Naveen’s penchant for imparting a younger hue to his Council of Ministers, ostensibly to give a push to dynamism in governance, was to fore when the average age of Cabinet Ministers is around 56 years. And the average age of Minister of State is younger at 47 years.

Though Naveen thanked the women voters for his record fifth win, the Council of Ministers have only 2 women members. But the salient feature is the lone women cabinet minister happens to be the youngest one in the Naveen Cabinet. However, the youngest minister in Naveen’s ministerial council is MoS Padmini Dian from Kotpad, who is just 32 years.

Significantly, when BJD accomplished a stellar show with a win in around 22 SC seats of a total of 25 in 2019 polls, Naveen has inducted only 2 SCs into his ministerial council. Similarly, BJD has swept around 25 of 34 ST seats in the 2019 but 4 STs could make it into the Council of Ministers.

While a lone SC and ST MLA could find a berth in the Cabinet, the MoS has one SC and three ST MLAs. Sudam Marandi, who took oath in tribal Santhali dialect, has won the Bangiriposi seat from Mayurbhanj district, old timer and Biju era leader, Padmanabha  Behera has made into the 16th Odisha Assembly by winning the Birmaharajpur (SC) seat from Sundergarh district.

Padmini Dian and Jagannath Saraka are the ST members in Minister of State; Tusharkanti Behera, an IITian and a BJP leader till nomination date, was the SC member in the MoS. He won the Kakatpur seat in Puri district.

The ministerial council of Naveen 5.0 has given representation to 17 districts only. As many as 13 districts have been completely left out. Notably, impoverished districts like Kandhamal and Gajapati have no representation in the Council of Ministers.

The ministry making exercise of CM Naveen Patnaik also reveals a political side. The CM hasn’t touched districts like Sambalpur, Jajpur and parts of Ganjam where intra-party rivalry is high. Naveen also has rewarded new imports like Naba Das from Congress, Raghunandan Das and Tusharkanti Behera from BJP. Raghunandan Das was rewarded the ministerial berth, as he has defeated veteran leader Damodar Rout.

However, the political message of the Naveen 5.0 is quite a mixed one. Though he inducted some clean leaders, the ministerial council has also had a shade of leaders who had a controversial past.

While Arun Sahoo was dropped in 2017 for courting controversies then during the Nabakalabara fiasco, Padmanabh Behera was the Steel and Mines Minister in 2005, when illegal mining scam and Kalinganagar incidents took place. Also, he had resigned from council of ministers in 2008 over allegations of his alleged involvement in 2008 communal conflagration in Phulbani.

Interestingly also, when use of Odia language was made compulsory in all official and business discourses in the State , three BJD leaders, including CM Naveen Patnaik, took oath in English.  Cabinet Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain (Athagarh) and MoS Premananda Nayak (Telkoi) took oath in English.