Reshuffle in Central Cabinet has Significance for Orissa

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In a system, where the ruling party members compete to exceed each other in loyalty to a particular family, staying in or going out of a cabinet berth does not merit any mention. Yet, the 28 October reshuffle in the central cabinet attracts attention; because it has certain significance for Orissa.

For the last 12 years it is ruled by a particular person – Naveen Patnaik – who heads the ruling party as well as the government. This has given birth to sycophancy in the ruling party. And, sycophancy has gone up to such shocking extent that a senior member of the cabinet, S.N.Patro could pronounce in a public meeting that he feels himself fortunate by having Naveen Patnaik as the “master” and is proud of being his servant (Chakara)!

People of Orissa are severely embarrassed over such shameless sycophancy practiced by the ministers and fellows appearing as leaders of BJD, the party that had managed to get their mandate in 2009.

Before 2009, Naveen was the Chief Minister for two consecutive terms. But, as he was then heading coalition governments partnered by BJP, there were some obstacles to his running the government like an autocrat. When Samir De, for example, was very vociferous in disagreement with him on many occasions in the cabinet meetings, Juel Oram, beyond the cabinet, was a severe critic of the CM’s wrong steps.

But the coalition with the BJP quashed, the third phase of Naveen Raj has become such a phase of unrestrained misrule that even his closest ally Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the man who had caused quashing of the coalition, has come out openly against him. Evolution of Jan Morcha is indicative of how people of Orissa are eager to get rid of this government.

Congress begins rescue operation

This eagerness was marked in massive participation of the people in the ‘Occupy Assembly’ rally of the Congress on September 6. This rally revived organizational morality of the Congress to the chilling chagrin of Naveen, who, since May 29 internecine revolt in BJD, is in a state of nervousness.

But, like in all previous critical junctures, the Congress high command has commenced its operation for his rescue with the reshuffle in the central cabinet.

Congress MPs from Orissa are quite competent and experienced and unlike Salman Khursid, they are non-controversial.

Ram Chandra Khuntia is a renowned labor leader and a polished person. Bhakta Charan Das is a former union minister with a much unblemished career. Hemanand Biswal is a former chief minister with enough experience in administration. Any or all of them could have become better than many the Prime Minister has taken in as ministers. The lone minister from Orissa – Srikant Jena – has earned the distinction of being a non-controversial and capable minister in Singh’s council. He has distinguished marks as a central cabinet minister prior to joining Singh as a Minister of State. And, in his present position, he has not done any wrong to be denied of elevation to cabinet rank.

Why then Singh has not taken any of them into his cabinet when he knows and has declared that this is the last reshuffle before the next election? This is because; the Congress High Command wants a message to be delivered to the people of Orissa that none of Congress leaders of the province is suitable for ministerial positions. For Naveen’s benefit, such a message was essential.

Had Orissa got its legitimate share in the central cabinet, the Congress in the province, which was just waking up, could have got the much needed impetus to offer the people an alternative. But, that would have troubled Naveen Patnaik, the paragon of pro-globalization intentions that match with that of the Prime Minister. So, no new challenger to Naveen’s position was to be promoted through the reshuffle.

History of Congress sabotaging Congress in Orissa

Sabotaging the provincial Congress unit by the Congress High Command to ensure continuance of Naveen Patnaik as Chief Minister is not new.

Replacement of Jayadev Jena with K.P.Singhdeo as PCC President just before the 2009 general election is an instance.

Singhdeo is the son of the ill-famed king of Dhenkanal, Shankar Pratap, under whose tyranny the youngest martyr of India Baji Raut had lost his life.

Though a Marxist like Veer (The Brave) Baishnab Pattanayak was leading the revolution, it is the Congress under the banner of which the people of Dhenkanal had compelled the tyrant king to abdicate his throne. So, replacement of Jena with the son of the same Dhenkanal king was the worst shock the Congress rank and file in Orissa had to absorb before facing the voters. It could not, exactly as calculated by the Congress high command.

Jena, initially not considered in Orissa as the correct choice to head the PCC, had, with tremendous perseverance and dedication to his responsibility, boosted up the morality of Congress rank and file and ushered in a remarkable team spirit, which was promising enough to net in electoral success. Therefore, he had to go, under circumstances created by super-sycophants of the Congress high command, for whom continuance of Naveen Patnaik as Orissa’s Chief Minister was more necessary in the cause of plutocracy propounded by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

With Singhdeo at the helm of affairs, as calculated, the Congress in Orissa was too demoralized to gain popular support.

Singhdeo’s appointment as PCC chief just before the election was a great boon to Naveen Patnaik.

Similar boon was also granted to him by the Congress high command when Naveen was seeking mandate for the second time. Dig Vijay Singh was appointed to boss over electioneering in Orissa. Politicians dismissed by Naveen from his cabinet and BJD on corruption charges were given party tickets. Congress was rejected even when people were crying for relief from Naveen’s misrule.

Omission of Orissa’s distinguished MPs from inclusion in the cabinet and denial of elevation to Orissa’s lone member in the council of ministers to cabinet rank makes us convinced that the Congress High Command does not want the Congress in Orissa to come to a challenging position against the BJD supremo.

The Cabinet Reshuffle Has No Relevance to Betterment of Orissa

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patanaik, in his continuous tenure, has thrown away as many as 24 ministers from his cabinet. Every time he jettisons a minister, the general public is made to understand that, that was necessary for cleansing the administration. This time, the impression is also not different.

As always, this time also, the ruling party does not know as to why some of its members are expelled from the council of ministers and why some others have been inducted into. The ruling party, as a party running a government, has never evaluated the functioning of its members in the cabinet, has never prepared a list of members to be dropped from the cabinet and members to be inducted. So, there is no democratic exercise in the reshuffle, no application of collective wisdom of the party that rules in the reshuffle. It is clearly an undemocratic act and arbitrary.

True, the Governor appoints a Chief Minister and on his advice, appoints other members of the Council of Ministers. Hence some say that the CM (in the central level, the Prime Minister) has the prerogative to form or reshuffle the Council of Ministers. This prerogative precipitates political anarchy when used without collective decision of the Party on which behalf the Council of Ministers is to run the administration. People give their mandate to a party to form a government; they never elect ministers to form the government. Hence, it is the party, which obtains the mandate of the people to form the government, must have to decide as to who of its members should be appointed ministers and, if necessary, who of the ministers should relinquish office. If this is not done, anarchy shall creep in. Knowing that their position as ministers depends in personal pleasure of the CM or PM, not on collective wisdom of their party, the ministers shall turn sycophants and instead of adherence to principles and probity, they shall compete with each other in complying with every corrupt and anti-people design of their boss.

This is happening.

And, this is why Orissa has a very incompetent, anti-people government. Earlier in these pages i had noted how ‘supremo’ syndrome had cost a group of Naveen’s ministers their jobs. I repeat the same in respect to fellows that have been thrown out in the current reshuffle.

As regards the new ministers taken in, it is discernible that a good many better persons than them, are left behind.

If the ruling BJD not been suffering from the ‘supremo’ syndrome, it could have used its collective wisdom in deciding who to go and who to stay in the cabinet. And, then, some of the jettisoned ministers might have continued to render their service to the state as members of the cabinet and some of the newly inducted ones might never have bagged the chance to desecrate democracy; because, better members of the party might have been chosen to serve as ministers.

Hence, this much can be said that, the cabinet reshuffle is meaningless, a malfeasant act of an autocrat in control over a pack of sycophants called a political party. It has no relevance to betterment of Orissa.

Orissa has a Cabinet Reshuffle

Three ministers of Orissa have been de facto dismissed. They are Damodar Raut, Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha and Pravin Chandra Bhanja Deo. On demand by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, they have tendered resignation.

Raut was the minister in charge of Agriculture, Cooperation as well as Fisheries and Animal Resources Development. This is the third time, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has thwarted him out of his cabinet.

Bariha was Minister in charge of ST & SC Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare.

Bhanja Deo was Minister (State) in independent charge of Sports & Youth Services and in subordinate charge of Revenue & Disaster Management.

The newly taken in Ministers are Lal Bihari Himirika, Pradeep Maharathy, Maheswar Mohanty, Usha Devi and Niranjan Pujari.

Himirika was Deputy Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly, which he resigned to join the Cabinet.

Ms. Anjali Behera, a Minister of State, is elevated to Cabinet rank in the reshuffle.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

A Chief Minister has the prerogative to reshuffle his cabinet. Hence, when Orissa CM dropped today four of his cabinet colleagues and inducted six new Ministers, it looked like a normal democratic business. But it was not.

The Ministers who are dropped are not democratically dropped; the Ministers who are inducted are not democratically inducted.

There was a short lived but sharp rumbling during oath taking of the new Ministers. It was bound to be short lived because the spot was within the heavily guarded Governor House and the occasion was disadvantageous to expression of any discontentment. But howsoever soon had it to vanish, it reflected that there was, though feeble, surely some resentment.

Who could have been the fountainhead of this resentment? Might be any or all of the dropped Ministers. Might be, beyond them, any element in Biju Janata Dal that still has any respect for democracy.

Democracy entails that party choice should be reflected in formation of the Cabinet. The Governor is empowered to appoint Ministers as per advice of the Chief Minister. The Governor cannot accept advice of anybody other than the CM in matter of appointment of Ministers. Hence this uniquely specific advisory role of the CM is known as his prerogative. And this is a limited purpose prerogative. It has no role beyond advising the Governor to lodge or dislodge a Minister. Other than advising the Governor to lodge or dislodge a Minister, whatsoever the CM shall have to do must have to be in consonance with collective wisdom of the political party he represents.

This is what Mr. Naveen Patnaik has not done in relation to the reshuffle in question. Under his advice, the Governor has dropped four Ministers and subsequently has appointed six others. But the BJD as a political party has never resolved for dropping of those four Ministers or for inclusion of these six Ministers. The party in fact did not know that this change was to take place.

In a democracy, public opinion regulates administration through representatives elected on basis of majority support to a political party. When majority of the electorate finds a political party manifesto better addressed to its aims and aspirations, that party earns mass preference over others and becomes able to form the Government. So it is called the party in power. Therefore the party in power enjoys the power to decide as to who should be placed in the Ministry and who should head them in order to carry out its manifesto. The democratic compulsion for MLAs to work under party whip makes it abundantly clear that it is the party that alone controls its representatives.

But this democratic norm had no relevance to the reshuffle of today. The Ministers dropped were not desired by BJD to be dropped. The party has not also wanted the Ministers inducted to be inducted.

In today’s reshuffle, no member from the coalition partner BJP has been taken into the cabinet. This is because the BJP has not taken any decision in the party level to recommend any name.

Contrasted with this, BJD is different. In BJD party does not decide. Naveen does. Whenever he wants to drop anybody from the Ministry he does it. Within last six years he has dropped 15 Ministers as and when he has wanted. And has taken any member as a Minister as and when he has liked. He has not hesitated to drop Ministers alleging in public that they were corrupt. But in reality he has no botheration over corruption. Debi Mishra offers an interesting instance. He was dropped very unceremoniously as he was considered corrupt. What was the corruption for which he was dropped was never made public. Today he has been inducted again as a Minister.

Who of the Ministers is not corrupt is a big question. But there is not a single department where corruption is not unveiled by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Even House Committees of Orissa Legislative Assembly and Members of the BJD-BJP combine have harped umpteen times on corrupt practices in vogue in all the departments of Orissa.

The Chief Minister’s clarification on sudden jettisoning of four of his Ministers, Dr. Damodar Raut, Bijayasree Rautray, Nagen Pradhan and Balabhadra Majhi leads one to infer that they are shown the door because of corruption. Be it corruption or incompetence, one thing is clear that BJD did not know of the jettisoning nor had it wanted them to go. The BJD as a political party has never met to evaluate activities of its Ministers and wanted any reshuffle. But it has never opposed what Naveen has done or has been doing. This is because; BJD has not developed as a democratically managed political party. It is a fiefdom of Naveen Patnaik which is proven by the very fact that he is regarded by every member of BJD as the ‘Supremo’ or the supreme boss. How can a political party, meant to play a part in democracy, have a Supremo? But BJD has. It was created by sycophants of Biju Patnaik who were ambitious but amongst whom there was none who could have led a political party. They therefore planed to cash in from the courtesy sorrow the leaders of other political parties were expressing on demise of Biju Patnaik. They picked up Naveen Patnaik whom they had thought of using as an umbrella under which cover it would be easier to grab and exploit Orissa. With this design, they successfully transformed the obituary wave to sympathy wave in favor of Naveen. Once Naveen got the sympathy votes, he thought that people of Orissa were fans of his father and he, as his heir, has brought victory to members of BJD who otherwise could have remained political non-entities. On the other hand, members of BJD started competing with each other in showing allegiance to him. Just like the court jesters of yester years, they competed with each other in showering praises on Naveen and in the process he became the supremo of the party created in the name of his father and voted to power also in the name of his father. Therefore, for him none in the party is his friend and colleague but everyone is a follower. He never shows himself as one amongst the equals but prides himself as the boss.

Founder members of BJD like Bijay Kumar Rautray, Nalinikanta Mohanty, Ramakrushna Patanaik etc have reaped the result of promoting Naveen as supreme boss of the party. Dr. Raut and three others have now succumbed to the same supremo syndrome.

The dropped Ministers do not deserve any sympathy. But rising of some one as the supreme boss of any political party cannot be held as a healthy development of democracy.