Power shifts and political moves: Key highlights that defined Odisha politics in 2023

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | December 31, 2023 IST

VK Pandian

Bhubaneswar, Dec 31: As the curtains fall on 2023, Odisha's political landscape stands transformed, marked by a series of unprecedented events that left an indelible mark on the state's political narrative. The year commenced with a tragic incident that sent shockwaves through the corridors of power — the assassination of Cabinet Minister Naba Kishore Das in Jharsuguda. The brazen daylight shooting, allegedly by police ASI Gopal Das, unfolded as an unexpected chapter in Odisha's political history, leaving analysts grappling with the mystery surrounding the Health Minister's murder.

The year took an unexpected turn with the entry of Odisha's most powerful IAS officer, V.K. Pandian, into the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Pandian, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's former private secretary, voluntarily retired in October, assuming the role of Chairman of 5T and Nabin Odisha program before joining the BJD the following month. This move added a new dimension to the political landscape, defying initial predictions that 2023 would witness heightened political heat.

One of the defining moments of the year was the BJD's triumph in the Jharsuguda by-election on May 13. Dipali Das, daughter of the late Naba Kishore Das, secured a landslide victory, defeating her closest rival from the BJP by a substantial margin. The win not only reaffirmed BJD's dominance but also served as a poignant moment amid the tragic circumstances that led to the by-election.

However, not all was smooth sailing within the BJD. On September 21, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expelled two MLAs, including media baron and Khandapada MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik. The expulsion, citing 'anti-people activities,' added a layer of complexity to the internal dynamics of the ruling party.

The year also witnessed the passing of two stalwarts in Odisha's political arena. Former Speakers Surya Narayan Patro and Maheswar Mohanty bid farewell, leaving a void in the state's political legacy. Their contributions, spanning several decades, were commemorated as the political fraternity mourned their loss.

Former Chief Secretary Bijay Patnaik, once a formidable figure in the Naveen Patnaik government, made headlines by joining the Congress party on February 10. Citing a commitment to combating bad governance, corruption, and violence in the state, his switch added an interesting dynamic to the political chessboard.

In the realm of party appointments, BJP appointed Manmohan Samal as the new state president of its Odisha unit on March 23. Samal's organizational skills and experience were considered pivotal as the party sought to strengthen its position in the state.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das took oath as the 26th Governor of Odisha on October 31. His appointment marked a significant development, bringing a seasoned political leader to the gubernatorial role.

The cabinet of Naveen Patnaik's fifth-term government underwent a reshuffle in July. Notable changes included Bikram Keshari Arukh's transition from the post of Assembly Speaker to Cabinet Minister, and the inclusion of Sudam Marndi and Sarada Prasad Nayak as cabinet ministers.

The year also witnessed changes in the Congress party's leadership for Odisha, with Dr. Ajay Kumar replacing Dr. A. Chellakumar as the party in charge. This change came following discussions between Odisha leaders and Rahul Gandhi about the party's future direction.

As we reflect on the political dynamics that shaped Odisha in 2023, the year stands out as a tapestry woven with unexpected twists, tragedies, and strategic moves that will undoubtedly echo into the future of the state's political landscape.

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