Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, May 21:
Swearing in ceremonies are usually sombre occasions with the a host of ministers repeating the same lines over and over again and the oath taking by 22 members of the new Odisha council of ministers on Wednesday morning was no different. But even as the formalities were being gone through, there was plenty of drama both on the dais and below.
For once, the followers took a path different from their leader. While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expectedly took the oath of office and secrecy in English, as many as 17 ministers took their oath in Odia. The only four ministers who stuck to the Queen’s language were Pradip Amat, Bijayshree Routray, Usha Devi and Pradip Panigrahi.
Rajya Sabha MP Baishnab Parida claimed credit for a majority of ministers taking their oath in Odia in a major departure from past practice. “I had personally requested all ministers, except of course the Chief Minister, to take their oath in Odia. I am happy that most of them heeded my request,” Parida told OST.
But he had no answer when asked why four ministers, who did not suffer from the handicap that the Chief Minister suffers from, chose to ignore the advice.
“May be they were just trying to curry favour with their supremo,” commented someone in the crowd.
Debi Mishra in a hurry
It is not the first time that Badamba MLA Debi Mishra has become a minister. In fact, he has been a minister in each of the three terms that the BJD government has had since 2000. That is why many people were amused when the suave minister appeared to be in a tearing hurry while taking oath today.
Governor SC Jamir was about to administer Mishra with the oath of office and secrecy when Mishra started reading out his lines without waiting for a signal from the Governor. Jamir could do no more than smile amusedly.
The minister’s unseemly hurry in taking oath caused a lot of mirth in the audience as well. “He perhaps thought he would miss out on the ministerial sweepstakes this time. That is why he wanted to be over with it before the mercurial Chief Minister had a change of mind,” quipped someone in the crowd.
Every BJD MLA who got a berth in the new council of ministers obviously knew who they owed their position to. So, most ministers touched the feet of the presiding deity of the ruling party: Naveen Patnaik.
Curiously, none of them bothered touching the feet of Governor SC Jamir, who was sitting right by the side of the Chief Minister, despite the fact that he was a notch above the Chief Minister both constitutionally and in terms of age. It was an amusing sight watching everyone from first time MLA Snehangini Chhuria to six time MLA and senior BJD leader Pradip Maharathy stopping to conquer as it were.
The only honourable exception was first time minister Pradip Panigrahi, who touched the feet of both the Chief Minister and the Governor.
Television camera crews invariably have pride of place on every occasion and Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony was no different. Notwithstanding the fact that a particular space had been earmarked for them, a majority of them had placed their tripods and cameras bang in the middle of the aisle in the audience to get the bet possible angles, blocking the view of the people sitting in the process.
But for once, the people were in no mood to keep quiet in deference. Unable to see the proceedings on the dais, for which many of them had come from all over the state, they shouted at the camera crews and asked them to vacate the aisle. The commotion was serious enough for the I & PR department personnel and the police to intervene and politely request them to move over to their designated place. Seeing the anger in the crowd, the camera crews had no choice but to oblige.
Reporters and photographers of the print media, who had been herded into their enclosure, were watching the drama unfolding before them and enjoying every moment of their more glamorous counterparts’ discomfiture. After the camera crews were ejected from the aisle and moved to their place, a photographer quipped; “Just Desserts.”
The presence of a 71 year old lady smartly dressed in an off green saree raised many eyebrows at the swearing in ceremony at the Raj Bhavan today. The people could make out that she was someone important because security personnel on duty were seen all around her, but could not identify her. “Who is she?” people were seen asking each other. Even media persons were seen scratching their heads over the identity of the lady before someone put an end to the speculation by revealing that it was in fact Gita Mehta, eminent author and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s elder sister.
Once her identity was revealed, camera crews made a beeline for her and Mehta too was more than happy to oblige. “I congratulate the people of Odisha for electing such a wonderful Chief Minister,” she said.