Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday initiated a major reshuffle in his cabinet – dropping five ministers and inducting nine – ending all speculations for about two months following the alleged aborted coup against him in May by his former mentor and Rajya Sabha MP Pyarimohan Mohaptra.
Patnaik asked the five ministers, including the number two in his cabinet, finance minister Prafulla Ghadei, in the morning to tender their resignations. The ministers were supposed to be loyal to Mohapatra.
“I am a disciplined worker of the party. I accept the chief minister’s decision,” said Ghadei after resigning as finance minister. Three of the new ministers were inducted as cabinet ministers while six others as ministers of state. The new ministers, including Mohapatra’s bete noire Damodar Rout, took oath at the governor’s house in the afternoon taking the total strength of the ministry to 21.
A major shake up in the ministry was on cards since a meeting of more than 30 Biju Janata Dal MLAs and three ministers at Mohapatra’s house on May 29 triggered talks of an imminent revolt while Patnaik was in the midst of a foreign tour. A day later, Mohapatra, a former bureaucrat, denied he had tried to dethrone Patnaik.
However, on May 31 Patnaik return home from Britain to a raucous public show of strength staged by his party and said: “Right decisions will be taken at the right time.”
Patnaik suspended Mohapatra from the party along with two MLAs and sacked the three ministers who were present in the meeting in Mohapatra’s house, starting a process of strengthening his position and purging ‘Pyari’ elements in the party as well as government machineries. Several bureaucrats, police officers and chairmen and presidents of boards and cooperatives suspected to be loyal to Mohapatra were also removed systematically over the last two months.
Patnaik also poached on four MLAs of ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) who joined BJD increasing the ruling party’s strength from 104 to 108 in the state assembly, which has a total of 147 MLAs.
Party sources said the reshuffle in the ministry had been put on hold for some time due to the Presidential elections, as Patnaik was not keen to ruffle feathers to avoid cross voting by Mohapatra loyalists.