Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s new 21-member council of ministers took oath on Sunday, a day after the CM secured the resignation of all his ministers in the first such exercise in more than 22 years in power.
Naveen retained nine of the 20 ministers in his dissolved council, while dropping 11 and offering ministerial berths to seven MLAs for the first time. He also recalled five politicians who had served as ministers in his earlier terms but are considered assets politically, resetting his team for the simultaneous Lok Sabha and state assembly elections due in 2024. “The only way to lead the people is to serve the people,” Naveen tweeted, moments after the reshuffle, with a photo collage of his new team members.
The new ministers include 13 in cabinet rank and eight ministers of state, with an average age of 58, but all junior to Naveen. Doing a fine caste balance, Naveen inducted two STs, two SCs and nine OBC ministers, while taking seven ministers from western Odisha, the region where BJP had done comparatively better in 2019 elections.
This is also a region where Congress hopes to improve after it made Sarat Pattanayak from the same zone its Odisha unit chief. Pushing for better women’s representation, something Naveen often talks about, he has accommodated five women, including three in cabinet and two in junior minister ranks. It generally used to be two earlier. Two ministers of state in the last council, Jagannath Saraka and Ashok Chandra Panda, were promoted to the cabinet rank. Saraka, a tribal, took the oath first as a cabinet minister.