Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 22:
The Odisha council of ministers saw a different Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the meeting convened by the latter yesterday.
Ministers were at once surprised and amused when the man who has always been accused of being guided by the bureaucracy throughout his four terms in office advised them not to go only by the feedback of the babus and to cross check things directly with the people.
For the first time during his Chief Ministership, Patnaik assured his ministers of his full support in every decision taken in the interest of the people even if it involves risk.
While the statement by the Chief Minister, who is known to keep himself cocooned behind the iron curtain of bureaucracy, has buoyed the spirits of ministers, efforts have begun to unravel the mystery behind the sudden change in Naveen.
In the last decade, it was the bureaucracy that was literally running the Odisha government. Ministers and MLAs raising their voices on the issue both inside and outside the Assembly had failed to influence an insular Naveen, who gave the distinct impression that he was more comfortable in the company of bureaucrats than his ministers and party men.
Everyone in the government and the party was fed up with what was dubbed ‘officer raj’. It was the officers who were privy to the Cabinet agenda, which used to be placed before the ministers at the time of Cabinet meetings. Reports by officers from the district level to the state level were considered gospel truth by the government. Announcement of new schemes and review of departments without inviting the concerned minister had become a routine affair for Naveen.
At one point of time, Naveen’s blind love for officers had reached such an extent that it had led to the sowing of the seeds of rift between him and his then adviser of BJD-Pyarimohan Mohapatra. During a BJD meeting, Mohapatra failed in his attempt to persuade Naveen to give up his near-total dependence on officers.
Thursday was the first time in his 15-year rule when Naveen asked his Council of Ministers to themselves present their list of successes and failures before him.
Naveen also showed another streak of change in his persona at the meeting of the coucil of ministers yesterday. Better known as an unreliable leader both inside and outside the BJD, who used to axe ministers with a shadow of corruption and maintain his spotless clean image, Naveen on Thursday said: “In our scheme of things, the people of Odisha are our ultimate masters. I will support you in every decision taken in the interest of the people-even if it involves risk.”
While this change in persona of Naveen has made his ministers happy many are left wondering what or which specific incident was responsible for this change. The cynics doubt whether this change is a genuine change of mind or just a facade.