NEW DELHI :
Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik took oath as Odisha chief minister for the fifth consecutive term on Wednesday.
Patnaik kept his swearing-in ceremony, attended by his family and party members, low-key. This is in line with the ceremonies of the previous four terms and mirrored the absence of ostentatious celebration at his residence on 23 May, when his party won 112 out of the 146 assembly seats and 12 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
However, this is the first time that Patnaik took oath at a public exhibition ground away from Raj Bhawan. The choice of venue for the ceremony is a possible indication of his closeness to the people. “It’s a nostalgic and personal journey for me to reminiscence the past 19 years. Today, while I take the oath of office for the fifth term, I humbly accept the responsibility that comes with the faith my 4.5 crore family members have reposed in me, yet again," the chief minister tweeted.
The BJD leader also visited the Jagannath Temple in Puri to seek divine blessings. The visit is also significant as Puri needs immediate attention of the chief minister as Cyclone Fani, which made landfall in the district on 3 May, had devastated the district. The district is still struggling to get on its feet. Nearly a month after the cyclone, the district is struggling with crippled electricity and telecom infrastructure. More than 189,000 houses have been totally damaged and Patnaik must speed up disbursement of financial help to families to rebuild houses ahead of the mid-June monsoon.
Patnaik inducted 11 cabinet ministers and nine ministers of state. In the 22-member council of ministers there are 10 new faces. Patnaik, during the assembly polls in April, had changed more than 60% of his sitting MLAs to curb anti-incumbency.
The chief minister has given ministerial berths to two women MLAs Tukuni Sahu and Padmini Dian. Sahu is from western Odisha, while Dian is from southern Odisha, two regions where the BJP gave tough competition to the BJD during elections. Dian is a first-time MLA from tribal-dominated Koraput.
The attention will shift to which constituency Patnaik will keep and from which he will resign. He had contested from two assembly seats, Hinjli and Bijepur. While Hinjli is his traditional seat, he went to Bijepur to counter the growth of the BJP in western Odisha. Though he has said that his family members will not join the BJD, there was speculation that he may field his nephew (brother’s son) from one of the seats. His brother, businessman Prem Patnaik, and sister, author Gita Mehta, were present during his swearing-in ceremony.