| Watchdog: A dog on Mahatma Gandhi Marg during the state parade rehearsals on the eve of Independence Day celebrations in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati |
Political grapevine has been set abuzz following former finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei’s visit to Naveen Nivas last week. This was the first personal meeting of Ghadei with chief minister Naveen Patnaik after being dropped from the ministry in the recent reshuffle.
The buzz in the political circles is that Ghadei, a veteran, who least expected his exclusion from the ministry, sought to convince the chief minister about his loyalty, over which a question mark was raised in the wake of May 29 coup attempt against Naveen.
Ghadei, according to sources, has also been worried about the future of his son Priti Ranjan, the MLA from Korei, whose run-in with BJD leader Hussain Rabi Gandhi seems to have earned the wrath of the chief minister. Only future will tell whether Ghadei’s meeting with Naveen will have any positive impact on his and his son’s political careers.
All for an agenda
When yoga practitioner Baba Ramdev visited Bhubaneswar in June, he met with chief minister Naveen Patnaik at the latter’s residence. Before leaving Naveen Nivas, the Baba had blessed Naveen saying that he would rule the state for three more terms, a compliment which had the latter grinning from ear to ear. Naveen returned Baba’s compliment recently by extending support to his movement when the saffron-robed Ramdev sat on a fast at the Ramlila ground in Delhi.
He even sent BJD Rajya Sabha member Rabi Mohapatra to the Ramila Maidan to share the dais with Baba. The chief minister, however, had a more serious purpose behind all this. He wanted to raise his own profile as an anti-corruption crusader, which has been crucial to his political fortunes in the state.
Instead of flaunting his enhanced political status and clout, finance minister Prasanna Acharya is being extremely cautious in his dealings. Sources close to him describe it as a case of being once bitten twice shy. They recall that in the immediate wake of the failed coup against the chief minister, Acharya had gone to town with the statement that Biju Janata Dal would try to bring together the members of the extended Biju Parivar — a term loosely applied to the followers of late Biju Patnaik many of whom left the BJD long ago.
This, however, raised the hackles of a section of his party leaders who promptly lodged a complaint with the chief minister that Acharya had spoken out of turn. What followed, according to sources, was a royal snub from the chief minister, which the finance minister is yet to forget.
At his preachy best
As Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had a running battle with the Naveen Patnaik government over mega projects such as Posco and the Vedanta alumina refinery.
He continues to be critical of and preachy towards the state government in his latest avatar as the rural development minister at the Centre.
Ramesh, who apparently thinks that Odisha has not done its bit for the state’s tribals, which has aggravated the problem of the Maoist insurgency, last week advised the chief minister to take a leaf out of Maharashtra government’s book and transfer the power for harvesting and selling bamboo, the most important of the minor forest produce, to the gram panchayats. This, he appears to believe, would help reduce the disenchantment among the tribals against the government and stop them from flocking to the gun-toting rebels for “justice.”
Problem of perusal
The biggest worry of the new steel and mines minister Rajani Kant Singh is convincing major investors such as ArcelorMittal and Posco that Odisha has lost none of its lustre as an investment destination.
Both the companies have been facing problems with regard to their projects in the state and there are serious doubts in certain quarters over the government’s ability to resolve these issues.
ArcelorMittal chief Laxmi Mittal, in fact, was recently quoted in a section of the media saying that India no longer remained a priority for investment because of stiff local opposition to land acquisition. A similar kind of resistance has also been holding up the Posco project. Singh, no doubt, has a big problem on his hands.
Want of wand
Dissidents have stepped up their campaign against state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik.
The rebels, who a few months ago, had camped in Delhi to meet central party leaders with a litany of complaints against Patnaik, are reported to be planning yet another visit to the national capital to press for their demand for his removal.
Though Patnaik, a former minister, continues to enjoy the confidence of AICC-nominated state Congress affairs in-charge Jagdish Tytler, his case has been weakened by the fact that the party is yet to win a single election under his leadership.
Dissidents describe him as lacklustre and bereft of any kind charisma. Patnaik would need nothing short of a magic wand to turn the tables on his critics.