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.

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