The appointment of the new cabinet also underlines the fact that Naveen Babu has taken into account feedback from the field. He proactively tried to nip in the bud any discontent among a section of voters over non-performance, corruption or controversy. Patnaik cannot allow the image of non-performers to rub off on his popularity.
The reshuffle also puts an end to the question of who is responsible for the administration of the state. The local media is abuzz about a certain bureaucrat who is pulling the strings and controlling the situation.
Over the years, Patnaik has developed a strong bank of women’s votes. No less than 47% of women in the state supported the BJD in 2019 (+6%), compared to men. The self-help group revolution in the state, through which thousands of women gained livelihoods, helped Patnaik consolidate women’s suffrage. By inducting five female ministers (+3), he sent a clear signal to female voters.
The new cabinet has over 40% OBC ministers and four members of the SC/ST community, ticking the social engineering boxes as well.
Simultaneous elections in the state have helped the party over the years win the maximum seats in the Lok Sabha. Out of 21 seats, the BJD won 14 seats in 2009, which rose to 20 in 2014, before dropping to 12 in 2019. With this revamp, Patnaik also hopes the party can repeat its 2014 performance in the state.
The veteran politician, who has backed the BJP on important issues in parliament, may hope that inflation and stagnation lead to the BJP running out of a majority in 2024, where the BJD could play the role of kingmaker.
In summary, Naveen Babu hopes to secure majority seats in Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha in 2024 through this overhaul, betting on Odia Asmita (pride), his father’s legacy, and the TINA factor, among others.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicsbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The opinions expressed above are those of the author. The quintet neither endorses nor is responsible for it.)