In politics, body language often tells you more than an act. And it was no different on September 3 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi effected a mid-term reshuffle of his Council of Ministers. More than his elevation to cabinet rank – or even
the conferment of the additional portfolio of Skill Development – it was the sight of Modi calling Dharmendra Pradhan to stand
beside him during the customary post-reshuffle group photo that said more about the Talcher man’s new found standing in the BJP’s scheme of things than anything else that preceded the gesture from the PM.
Pradhan is not the first man from Odisha to become a cabinet minister in the Union government. But he is certainly the first from the state to become a member of the allimportant Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
Back in Odisha too, it is the dramatic change in BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik’s body language in the last few months that tells you more about the uncertainty that has gripped the ruling party than the setback it received in the zila parishad elections in February this year. Gone is the diffident, haughty and even indifferent Chief Minister, who rarely interacted with the public
and limited his interaction with the media to reading out a few lines from a pre-written text. In his place, there is now a man who smiles a lot, indulges the youth allowing them to click selfies with him and even waits for questions from media persons.
At least part of the credit for this transformation has to be attributed to the BJP and Pradhan in particular.
In public utterances, BJD leaders have been pooh-poohing Pradhan’s reported Chief Ministerial ambitions with the party’s resident motor mouth Damodar Rout, in particular, taking vicarious pleasure in digging up the Petroleum minister’s past and
daring him to a contest anywhere. But they have given the game away by repeatedly targeting him over every issue,unwittingly according him the position of Rival No. 1.
MAN MOMENT OF THE 10 THE INTERVIEW TIMES | OCTOBER-2017 COVER STORY
and Naveen’s Challenger-in-Chief. While the barbs have been aimed at Pradhan for quite some time now, two recent incidents have proved that the BJD is jittery about his elevation to cabinet rank and the CCEA. The hurriedly conceived ‘Hak Pain Hartal’ against frequent hikes in petroleum prices on September 18 was clearly aimed at Pradhan.