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Speaker Niranjan Pujari resigns ahead of ministry reshuffle




 Speaker Niranjan Pujari today resigned from the post ahead of a possible reshuffle of Naveen Patnaik's council of ministers as the buzz over the exercise grew louder.

"I hereby tender my resignation from the office of the Speaker, Odisha Legislative Assembly with effect from today," Pujari said in a letter submitted to Deputy Speaker Sananda Marndi.

Pujari told newsmen, "I have decided to spend more time with the people of my constituency and therefore resigned from the post of Speaker." He declined to comment on whether he took the decision due to pressure from anyone.

Marndi said he has received Pujari's resignation but refused to say anything on the reason behind it.

It is understood that Pujari is likely to be inducted in the council of ministers in the proposed reshuffle of the ministry expected in the next couple of days.

The countdown for the big exercise appeared to have started with Chief Minister Patnaik hinting at an early reshuffle of his three-year-old ministry.

Sources said the Parliamentary Affairs department has already informed the Raj Bhavan for the swearing-in ceremony.

"You will know it (ministry reshuffle) very soon. Be patient and wait," Patnaik told reporters earlier in the day while replying to a question whether the ministry expansion would take place before his Delhi visit scheduled on May 7.

Patnaik will leave for Delhi on Sunday to attend the meeting of chief ministers of Naxal-affected states on Monday.

Meanwhile, Odisha Governor S C Jamir, who is on a visit to his home state Nagaland, is scheduled to return to here tomorrow morning.

Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises Department Jogendra Behera told reporters that he will work as per the party chief’s directive.

Perhaps for the first time in 17 years, the BJD supremo and Chief Minister is faced with a situation where he needs to take a tough call.

Relieving some young ministers from his council of ministers will be a difficult exercise for him as they had become close to him in the past several years but dragged the BJD government to unnecessary controversies.

If sources are to be believed, nearly ten ministers are likely to be dropped from the council during the reshuffle.

The names of former Ministers Surjyanarayan Patro and Ranendra Pratap Swain and Debashish Nayak did rounds in the political grapevine along with those of party spokesmen Sashibhusan Behera and Ananta Das, Balabhadra Majhi, Sushant Singh and few others who are likely to be inducted into the cabinet in the reshuffle.

Notably, among the possible exclusion are Industries Minister Debiprasad Mishra, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister Sajay Dasburma, Law Minister Arun Sahoo, Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singh Deo, Tribal Welfare Minister Lalbihari Himirika and Textile and Handloom Minister Snehangini Chhuria.

Dasburma courted controversy when late Congress leader Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra leveled serious allegation against him saying that the Minister had received favours – an expensive Pajero SUV- from Artha Tatwa Chit fund owner Pradeep Sethi.

Mishra’s name was dragged into controversy when former OSFC MD Partha Sarathi Mishra – a former aide of the Minister -- was arrested by vigilance for amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and a rout of the party in his assembly constituency during the panchayat polls.

Urban Development Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo’s performance too was questioned when the party fared poorly during the recently concluded rural polls.

Naveen had immediately after the rural polls hinted about rejig both at party and government level apparently to check the saffron surge.

He had in unequivocal terms told party leaders that the rural poll results were alarm bell and party activists need to reconnect with the people as they have drifted away from them.

The Student and Youth wings of the party have since been reshuffled and Naveen has hinted about his willingness to draft in those estranged leaders who had left the party for some reason or the other.






Editorial

Précis 2017
From asking his party men to ‘live a simple life and serve the people’ to taunting the BJP for its ‘crocodile tears’, Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik has not only become politically invincible, he seems to be so in the coming years too.

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