Five ministers were dropped today from the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD ministry and nine new faces inducted, ending speculation over cabinet expansion two months after a failed coup bid against the Chief Minister in Odisha.
Governor M C Bhandare administered oath of office and secrecy to the nine new ministers, including three of cabinet rank and six ministers of state.
Besides former ministers Damodar Rout and Bijayshree Routray, the other new cabinet minister who took oath was Dharmasala MLA Kalpataru Das, a first time minister.
The six new Ministers of State were Pratap Keshari Deb, Subrat Tarai, Rajanikant Singh, Sarojini Hembram, Arun Kumar Sahu and Rabi Narayan Nanda.
Five ministers, including state Finance Minister Prafulla Ghadai, were dropped as most of them were considered close to BJD MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra who had allegedly engineered the failed coup bid against the Patnaik government on May 29 when the Chief Minister was out of India.
The five ministers tendered their resignation which were forwarded to the Governor for acceptance, sources said.
Besides Ghadai, Tourism and Culture Minister Prafulla Samal, Energy Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Labour Minister Pushpendra Singhdeo and School and Mass Education Minister Pratap Jena have also resigned.
Soon after the ministry expansion, the key finance portfolio, so far held by Ghadai who presented the state budget for nine years in a row, was handed over to Prasanna Acharya, hitherto Health and Family Welfare minister while the chief minister retained departments like Home, General Administration, Works and Water Resources.
New cabinet minister Damodar Rout was given Health and Family Welfare while Routray got Forest and Environment.
Kalpataru Das, who was made a minister for the first time, was given the crucial Panchayati Raj and Parliamentary departments earlier held by Maheswar Mohanty and Raghunath Mohanty respectively.
Debi Prasad Mishra was made minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Resources Development after being shifted from Forest and Environment department. The crucial Steel and Mines department has gone to Rajanikant Singh, a first time minister.
While Bikram Arukh, S N Patro and Badrinarayan Patra retained Rural Development, Revenue and Disaster Management and Higher Education departments respectively, Usha Devi became the minister for Women and Child Development department.
Another new minister, Arun Kumar Sahu, was given charge of the Energy department so far held by Atanu S Nayak who resigned ahead of the expansion.
With today's expansion, Patnaik's 21-member ministry has only two women (Usha Devi and Sarojini Hembram), three tribals (L B Himirika, Ramesh Majhi and Sarojini Hembram) and only one member from scheduled caste community (Subrat Tarai).
Patnaik's team also included one member from a royal family, Pratap Keshari Deb.
In another exercise to facilitate reshuffle, government chief whip Rabinarayan Pani and deputy chief whip Arun Sahu, who was made a minister of state, also put in their their papers.
Prabhat Tripathy and Sanjay Dasburma have been made chief whip and deputy chief whip respectively.
Though there were five vacancies in the ministry, the number rose to 10 after Patnaik dropped five other ministers ahead of the expansion. One berth in the ministry remained vacant as Odisha can have maximum number of 22 ministers as per the Constitution.
Ever since the revolt, political circles were agog with speculation about a major reshuffle to fill the vacancies and dismissal of loyalists of rebel BJD MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra.