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Odisha CM inducts 10 new ministers in Cabinet; switches portfolios

With the 2019 elections in mind, move aimed at countering a resurgent BJP in the state

BS Reporter  |  Bhubaneswar 

Odisha
Odisha Governor S C Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with new cabinet ministers after the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhawan in Bhubaneswar (Photo: PTI)

In a major reshuffle exercise in the run up to the 2019 elections, Odisha Chief Minister inducted 10 new ministers in his Cabinet. The revamped team saw the comeback of some of the avowed loyalists of the chief minister who were once axed from his council. The reconstituted team also has youth leaders and first timers as ministers.

The 10 new ministers who were sworn in on Sunday with their allocated portfolios are Nrusingha Sahu, commerce & transport; Prafulla Samal, women and child development; Shashi Bhushan Behera, finance; S N Patro, food supplies and consumer welfare; Pratap Jena, health; Niranjan Pujari, industries and urban development; Chandra Sarathi Behera, sports and youth affairs; Ananta Das, higher education; and Sushanta Singh, labour. Prafulla Mallick and Ramesh Majhi, who were elevated to the Cabinet rank, also took oath.

Pujari, who has earlier held the post of industries minister, had on last Friday resigned as speaker of the Odisha legislative Assembly. Maheshwar Mohanty, the party heavyweight from Puri, is a surprise recall to the ministry given his tainted record with pending criminal charges and involvement in lapses in the Nabakalebar festival of Jagannath Temple, Puri, in 2015. Similarly, Patro and Jena, who had fallen out of their party president’s favour, made an unexpected entry into his team. Patnaik has reposed faith in youth leadership with the induction of Chandra Sarathi Behera and Sushanta Singh. A Biju Janata Dal (BJD) old timer and former Rajya Sabha member, Shashi Bhushan Behera, was rewarded for the first time with a ministerial post, bagging the plum portfolio of finance.

Patnaik, who retained some of his ministers, did a bit of juggling in their portfolios. Prafulla Mallick, who held steel & mines, was given the additional charge of energy. Excise and cooperation minister Damodar Rout got agriculture, a portfolio he has held in the past. Ramesh Majhi was shifted to tribal affairs development from commerce and transport. Usha Devi will now handle planning and coordination, while has been entrusted with school and mass education.

The reshuffle exercise is aimed at strengthening BJD’s base to take on a rejuvenated Bharatiya Janata Party which made unexpected electoral gains in the recent panchayat polls. Ten incumbent ministers have been appointed as observers for different districts by Patnaik to help regain its supremacy. Pradip Amat, Pranab Prakash Das, Sanjay Dasburma, Pradeep Panigrahi, Arun Sahoo, Pusphpendra Singhdeo, Sudam Marandi and Jogendra Behera sacrificed their ministerial posts in the larger interest of party consolidation.

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