Bhubaneswar, Jan. 28: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik was today elected president of the BJD for the fifth time in a row, sending out a clear message to the rank and file about his undisputed leadership of the regional party.
While the election was significant, coming in the wake of Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra’s rebellion against his leadership, the chief minister also reorganised the party structure packing it with loyalists. Among the nine vice-presidents elected today are ministers A.U. Singhdeo, Prasanna Acharya, Raghunath Mohanty and Surya Narayan Patro, all known for their loyalty to Naveen.
All the 10 general secretaries the party elected today are close to the chief minister. They include energy minister Arun Sahu, agriculture minister Debi Prasad Mishra, higher education minister Badri Narayan Patra and mass education minister Rabi Narayan Nanda.
Naveen has carefully chucked out leaders with doubtful loyalty from the executive committee. Among those shown the door were former ministers Anjali Behera, Sharada Prasad Nayak and Sanjeev Sahu, all of whom had a role to play in the last year’s failed coup against the chief minister.
Senior leaders Jugal Kishore Patnaik, Jyotish Kar Mohapatra, Pravat Biswal, Baishnab Parida and Laddu Kishore Swain were also removed from the executive body.
Like an astute politician keenly aware of the imperatives of a political party facing elections, the chief minister played to the gallery while making his acceptance speech. Apart from reiterating his government’s commitment to pro-poor schemes, including the Re 1-a-kg rice announced by him on Republic Day, Naveen vowed to continue his battle against the Centre for its alleged step-motherly attitude towards Odisha.
He also invoked his late father Biju Patnaik, reaffirming his faith in the leader’s principles and policies which, he said, would continue to guide the BJD.
“We will follow his policies and continue to wage war against central apathy towards our state,” he said.
“Our aim is to create a hunger-free Odisha. And we are not here to make false promises,” the chief minister declared making a perfect pre-election speech.
The general elections are due in April next year.