Op-Ed: Patnaik Puts His Best Foot Forward

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: In his fifth innings as the chief minister of the state, Naveen Patnaik seems to have put his best foot forward asking his ministers to submit monthly performance reports with regard to the implementation of Biju Janata Dal’s election promises.

The opposition may deride it as a political stunt but it appears to be a good move aimed at keeping the ministers on their toes. It will instil a sense of responsibility among them instead of making them complacent as often happens when a party bags a brute majority.

Even towards the end of his last term as chief minister Patnaik had sought to put the performance of his ministers under scrutiny. He reviewed the work of each department separately making the ministers and the concerned bureaucrats of the department responsible for any delays or lapses.

Such exercises have some obvious advantages. Apart from the fact that it keeps the ministers and bureaucrats attached to them on their toes it gives the government enough time for course correction. This way the government ensures that it is not caught unawares.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of his ministers is important for a chief minister if he wishes to make the best possible use of his team. He can pull up ministers found wanting and reward good performers. Periodic review of the performance of ministers can come in handy for a chief minister ahead of a reshuffle or expansion. It rules out the scope for grumbling among ministers dropped on the basis of their report card.

If sources in the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) are to be believed the idea of putting both ministers and party MLAs under scrutiny was first mooted by late Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the bureaucrat-turned-politician who was Patnaik’s chief political advisor and strategist for a long time. Trained as an administrator he had evolved a system of assessing the performance of BJD MLAs and ministers with an eye to the long term gains of such an exercise.

One obvious advantage of this was that it inculcated a sense of discipline among party leaders including ministers. It helped Mohapatra, who practically ran the BJD on behalf of Patnaik, maintain a stranglehold over the party. The feedback on ministers and MLAs came in handy for the party leadership at the time of elections when it selected candidates. Efficient and hard working MLAs were rewarded with re-nominations while sluggards were chucked out.

The system worked quite efficaciously and BJD reaped rich electoral dividends. Though Mohapatra and Patnaik parted on a bitter note the latter still seems to be putting to use some of the lessons that he learnt from his “uncle” who had to quit the BJD in the most ignominious fashion after being accused of plotting a coup against the chief minister.

Patnaik’s bid to assess the performance of his ministers shows that he is serious about his commitments. Instead of resting on his laurels he would keep working hard to ensure that his government delivers on its promises.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)