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Naveen begins fourth innings

- leaders in shadow of deposit collection scam left out of ministry

Bhubaneswar, May 21: Naveen Patnaik today scripted a new chapter in the state’s history by taking oath as the chief minister of the state for the fourth time in the last 14 years, the first person ever to enjoy this distinction.

Naveen is credited to have single-handedly turned his regional outfit Biju Janata Dal (BJD) into a formidable political force.

If Naveen came dressed in his usual white kurta-pyjama for the ceremony at the Raj Bhavan, after paying early morning obeisance to Lord Jagannath at Puri, Geeta Mehta, the chief minister’s elder sister and author of best sellers such as Karma Cola and A River Sutra, looked dignity personified in her green saree. She sat there in the front rows watching the proceedings with an indulgent smile. Few recognised her, which explained her regal aloofness under the greenish-white shamiana, but she did draw a lot of curious stares.

“Of course, I congratulate him as my brother. But I also congratulate the people of Odisha for getting a great chief minister,” gushed the eldest daughter of legendary Biju Patnaik.

Besides Naveen, 11 cabinet ministers and 10 ministers of state were administered the oath of office and secrecy by governor Dr. S.C. Jamir. Around 2,000 people witnessed the swearing-in ceremony. While Naveen and five other ministers took oath in English, others preferred Odia. The ceremony began 20 minutes behind schedule. Some of the ministers were seen touching the feet of the chief minister.

Naveen has tried his best to maintain regional balance while constituting his ministry. Keeping the party’s strength of different regions in mind, as many as 12 MLAs from the coastal belt have been inducted into the ministry followed by four from west Odisha, two each from north and south and one from central Odisha.

Women have been given fair representation with Usha Devi and Snehagini Chhuria making it to the ministry.

The new ministers include Ekamra MLA Ashok Panda, Brahmagiri winner Sanjay Das Burma, Pranab Prakash Das from Jajpur, Pradeep Panigrahy from Gopalpur, Snehangini Chhuria from Attabira, Jogendra Behera from Loisingha, Prafulla Mallick from Kamakhya Nagar and a new entrant to the BJD from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Sudam Marandi.

Among those who have made a comeback are Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Pradeep Maharathy and Pushpendra Singh Deo. Maharathy, who had to quit as agriculture minister in the last government following a gang rape controversy, felt vindicated by his re-induction.

“The whole world will now know that I had been victimised. I thank the chief minister for reposing faith in me,” he said.

Naveen has taken care to steer clear of controversy by not inducting leaders allegedly involved in the money deposit collection scam, which is being probed by the CBI following a Supreme Court directive.

“He has made his choice carefully,” quipped Bijoyshree Routray.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Naveen drove straight to the secretariat and got busy with the job of allocating portfolios to the newly sworn in ministers. Secretariat employees welcomed him at the entrance to the imposing edifice with a huge garland.

The new council of ministers held its first meeting in the evening, the discussion focusing mainly on the strategy to ensure that the fledgling government delivered on its promises.


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