Who will be Odisha’s new CM? Guessing game begins

Dharmendra Pradhan, who was Union Education Minister in the dissolved NDA government, is being considered a frontrunner given his experience in handling bureaucracy and party affairs.

Published - June 05, 2024 10:46 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

Dharmendra Pradhan, who was Union Education Minister in the dissolved NDA government, is being considered a frontrunner as the Odisha Chief Minister given his experience in handling bureaucracy and party affairs

Dharmendra Pradhan, who was Union Education Minister in the dissolved NDA government, is being considered a frontrunner as the Odisha Chief Minister given his experience in handling bureaucracy and party affairs | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured a decisive victory in its over decade-long campaign to form a government in Odisha, potential names for the new Chief Minister have begun circulating in the State.

In the 147-member Odisha Assembly, the BJP secured 78 seats, while the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) got 51 seats. The Congress improved its tally from nine seats in 2019 to 14 this year. The Communist Party of India won one seat, and three Independent candidates also emerged victorious. The BJP’s tally has gone up further after one Independent MLA joined the party on Wednesday. Two more are likely to follow suit.

Watch: Odisha Assembly elections 2024 | Key winners and losers

During his campaign, Narendra Modi had said the new Chief Minister should be a native of Odisha and an Odia speaker. He specified that the new leader would take oath on June 10.

Given the BJP’s selection of Chief Ministers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, political pundits have shown reluctance to hazard a guess. Several names are, however, doing the rounds in political circles and on social media.

Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union Education Minister in the dissolved government and the winner of the Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat, is being considered the frontrunner for the Chief Minister’s post. Mr. Pradhan, a prominent figure in Odisha’s BJP, has the necessary experience to manage both the bureaucracy and party affairs due to his tenure as Union Minister and his role as an election strategist. Additionally, his age is being seen as an advantage, potentially allowing him to lead the party in the State for an extended period.

However, the BJP, which won 240 seats in the Lok Sabha election, is 32 MPs short of a majority. Asking Mr. Pradhan to resign and get elected from an assembly seat could be tricky. This would also apply to other potential candidates such as former Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, Balasore MP Pratap Sarangi, and BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda.

The one name which the social media is abuzz with is Girish C. Murmu, a retired Odia IAS who had spent considerable time in Gujarat when Mr. Modi was Chief Minister. Mr. Murmu also was the Comptroller General of India. Again, an elected MLA will have to resign in order to accommodate Mr. Murmu, who is a tribal too.

Among newly elected MLAs, Mohan Charan Majhi, a three-time MLA from Keonjhar, who was chief whip of the BJP legislative party and also a tribal face, could be considered for the post. Former State BJP presidents K. V. Singhdow and Suresh Pujari, who have been elected in the Assembly poll, are also in the race.

State BJP president Manmohan Samal said the central Parliamentary board of the party would take a final decision. The party is likely to announce the name on Thursday.

In the BJD, the situation appeared difficult with the party finding itself in the Opposition after 24 years. The BJD MLAs met at Naveen Niwas, residence of Naveen Patnaik, who tendered his resignation to Odisha Governor Raghubar Das, to chart out their next course of action.

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