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Hours after resignation, Pandian promoted to cabinet rank, sparks rumors of joining BJD

The voluntary retirement of V K Pandian, Odisha’s top IAS officer and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s most trusted secretary for over a decade, has ignited fresh rounds of speculations over what his next plans could be. A Tamilian, Pandian captured headlines after the Patnaik government appointed him as chairman to Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) two pan-state schemes, 5T(Transformational initiatives) and ‘Nabin Odisha’, hours after his retirement, elevating him to a cabinet minister rank.

As per the order issued by the state general administration department, Pandian is now set to work directly under the ageing CM, a move that many feel announces Pandian’s official entry into the political field.

The 5T Initiative, aimed at a complete overhaul of the administration, focusses on Transparency, Technology, Teamwork, Time and Transformation, and has footprints in almost all other state department works. Classroom transformation, top priority infrastructure projects including transforming Puri into world class heritage city, upgradation of SCB medical college in Cuttack, etc., have all been taken up under the 5T initiative. The initiative in itself is believed to be Pandian’s own design while he worked as the CM’s private secretary and a state administrator.

“These projects are going on in full swing and are nearing completion. Pandian will be directly credited for the success of these projects,” a senior government officer who did not want to be named said to Indian express.

The other set of responsibilities that now lie with Pandian include the upcycled panchayat development scheme —’Ama Odisha, Nabin Odisha’ (Our Odisha, new Odisha), whose earlier version is considered by many as imperative to Patnaik’s electoral wins in 2019 state polls. Under it, each panchayat takes up education, digital and banking infrastructure development work.

Three months after its launch, the Patnaik government recently diverted funds for the scheme, to the tune of Rs 3397 crore, to be spent in 6794 gram panchayats, while the majority of 90,723 projects under it pertain to development of religious places. The reins of this state wide rural development scheme also rest with Pandian now.

“Almost every village will get at least one project up to Rs 10 lakh under the Nabin Odisha scheme. Pandian will have the authority to look after these projects directly. If people will get a project of their choice in their village, it will naturally douse the anger against the government if there are any,” a senior bureaucrat told the publication.

Though Pandian’s ‘outsider’ identity is being pointed out by many, one cannot forget that Odisha’s political landscape has been marked by the likes of Biren Mitra, a Bengali chief minister of Odisha and Naveen Patnaik himself who did not speak Odia when assuming the highest post.

Insiders in ruling BJD have also spilled the beans on the very likely plunge of Pandian into Odisha politics. They say with no chains tying him to administrative duty anymore, Pandian can publicly intervene in party affairs.

(Published 26 October 2023, 03:41 IST)

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