BJD chieftain and chief minister Naveen Patnaik went for a strategic rejig in his team after tasting resounding victory at the Bijepur by polls.
Though this is not the last key reshuffle exercise before the big league elections of 2019, it seems unique. In an unprecedented gesture, the chief minister has shorn himself of two portfolios he has been helming for over 15 years- works and water resources.
Whilst Prafulla Mallick, the incumbent steel & mines minister would handle works, the water resources portfolio has been delegated to Niranjan Pujari, relieving him of his industries assignment now passed on Ananta Das, another BJD veteran and Naveen loyalist. Political commentators feel Naveen decided to delegate the two crucial portfolios to two full-time ministers after the swelling expectations of his voters on irrigation and infrastructure projects. Having two dedicated ministers overseeing them is a contrived move to ensure the BJD led government walks the talk on key development parameters.
The reshuffle is also viewed as a quid pro quo by the BJD boss to his team of dedicated poll managers. In that winning combination, both Mallick and Pujari played stellar roles to contribute to the party’s magnificent win at Bijepur. Mallick was the BJD’s observer for Bargarh in the BJD’s poll roster.
The other minister who got his due was Pratap Jena. Amongst the youth brigade who poured in tireless efforts for the BJD’s win, Jena’s name stands out. This dynamic BJD leader streamlined health care and awareness programmes in remote areas of the Bijepur constituency, leading to a changed perception of the people. Bijepur was Congress party’s pocket borough in the last three assembly polls but it swung the BJD way this time. Post the reshuffle, Jena has been allocated the additional charge of information & public relations. That portfolio allocation to Jena is aimed at deepening connect with the masses and buttressing the BJD’s positive image across the state.
Deploying all his ideal men for ministerial assignments and organisational machinery, Naveen can now spare ample time for canny strategizing for the next general elections. In the run up to the big ticket polling, the last thing he wants is an intra-party feud opening out. Naveen has been constantly trying to keep his flock together. He realises how Congress party’s skirmishes has decimated it in Odisha. BJP gaining ground in his home turf has not unnerved him yet but kept Naveen closer to the changing dynamics of power politics.