Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 30:
In a move that is entirely in line with the ad-hocism that has marked its decision-making on all matters related to the forthcoming Nabakalebara, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday clipped the wings of senior IAS officer Suresh Mohapatra, chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) appointing 1995 batch IPS officer Saumendra Kumar Priyadarshi as the new OSD for Nabakalebara.
A notification issued on Monday said Mohapatra would be stationed in Puri till the end of Rath Yatra while Priyadarshi will be in overall charge of supervision during the Rath Yatra.
1995 batch IAS officer Hemant Sharma, who is the CMD of bulk power supplier GRIDCO and Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited (OPTCL), has been given additional charge as the new special secretary, Energy. Sharma will manage the show in the Energy department for a month in the absence of Mohapatra.
The decision is being widely seen as a punishment of sorts for the 1985 batch IAS officer for his failure to prevent the mess that the Nabakalebara has been turned into since the beginning of the Banajaga Yatra on March 29. Sources privy to the development said Mohapatra had become too big for his boots and needed to be shown his place.
It may be noted that Mohapatra, apart from being the principal secretary Energy, was also the SJTA chief administrator and the OSD Nabakalebara.
A possible reason for the downsizing of Mohapatra at this stage, when the Nabakalebara is just weeks away, could be the fact that Opposition parties and social organisations have been baying for his blood after the massive bungling in the conduct of the Brahma Parivartan ritual of the deities causing serious embarrassment for the government.
Mohapatra had been appointed SJTA chief administrator, a post he had held in the past too, under controversial circumstances after unceremoniously shunting out the previous incumbent Arabinda Padhee, widely seen as an upright, no-nonsense officer who had sought to bring some order into the disorderly affairs of the temple..
The replacement of Padhee with Mohapatra was interpreted as capitulation by the state government to the powerful Daitapati lobby, which was peeved with the former for his attempts to rein them in. In fact, the Daitas had been fuming against Padhee since last year’s Rath Yatra when devotees were not allowed to mount the chariots causing them huge ‘losses’.
Many of the leading lights of the Daitapati community are also members of the BJD and lobbied hard with the leading lights of the ruling party for the ouster of Padhee and appointment of Mohapatra, who they saw as more Daitapati-friendly, to the key post of SJTA chief administrator in this Nabakalebara year.