Bhubaneswar: When Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo Naveen Patnaik is sworn in as the coastal state’s chief minister on Wednesday to embark on a record fifth term in power, the event itself will be historic. For the first time ever, an Odisha chief minister and his council of ministers will be sworn in outside of Raj Bhawan.
Away from the secluded indoors of the Governor’s House, 72-year-old Patnaik and his 21-member council of ministers will take oath in full public view in an open-air event. The venue, Exhibition Ground in the heart of state capital Bhubaneswar, is being prepared to host at least 6,000 guests at the ceremony, which has filled BJD workers and leaders with palpable enthusiasm.
True to his word, Patnaik has sent a formal invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, against whose BJP he fought a bitter electoral battle in Odisha’s four-phase simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and emerged a clear winner in a triangular contest. In the state’s 147-member Assembly, the regional party won 112 seats and returned to power for a fifth consecutive term. BJP won 23 Assembly seats while Congress got only eight. Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state, BJD managed to win 12 while BJP bagged eight and Congress one.
In the heated moments of the campaigns, Modi and Patnaik had taken on each other with high-decibel tirades. Modi had said at a rally that Patnaik’s government was certain to be dislodged from power in these polls. He had said that when he visits Odisha after the polls, there would be a government of the saffron party in the state.
“Naveenbabu, you are on your way out. Your exit is predestined. Your handful of officers cannot save you,” Modi had said at a rally in Kendrapara. “I had so far refrained from criticising Naveenbabu. It was because I wanted a respectable departure for him as he has served Odisha for so many years. He should not exit with humiliation. I had kept quiet out of respect for him, and I wanted his farewell to be a nice show…,” the PM had added in a no-holds-barred attack on the Odisha CM before the fourth-phase polls.
Patnaik had hit back the next day in his address at a massive rally. “The prime minister said yesterday that he would visit Odisha next after the BJD government is ousted from the state in these polls. With the third phase of polls now over, BJD has already got a majority in Odisha with the blessings of the state’s people,” Patnaik, 72, had said in his trademark broken, heavily accented Odia. “I humbly invite Modijee to take part as a guest in the BJD government’s oath-taking ceremony,” he had added, sending the crowd into rapturous cheers.
Before the poll campaigns began, Patnaik had said in interviews to the media that “Modi doesn’t seem to be interested in Odisha” and that the BJP-led NDA “did not fulfill any of the promises they made” for the state.
The state leaders of all national and regional parties, top industrialists and investors, and leaders of several organisations of farmers, women, and teachers have also been invited to attend Patnaik’s swearing-in ceremony.
“We have invited everyone. The PM has been invited, too. Those who took part in the ‘Make in Odisha’ initiative and all those who are involved in furthering the state’s interests have been invited,” said BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb.