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 Mohapatra, 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.