Bhubaneswar, Aug 2 - The much-awaited ministerial expansion in Odisha is slated to take place on Thursday afternoon ending about two-month long speculation.
"Ministry expansion will take place today. New Ministers will be sworn in this afternoon at Raj Bhavan," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Patnaik, however, gave no idea as to how many new ministers would be inducted into his council of ministers. The chief minister was believed to have taken the decision about ministry expansion late Wednesday night and also spoken to some of the senior ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders.
There are five vacancies in the ministry. While AU Singh Deo and Pradip Maharathy had resigned earlier this year over liquor tragedy and Pipili rape and murder case respectively, three ministers - Anjali Behera, Sarada P Nayak and Sanjeev Sahoo were sacked in the aftermath of the revolt on May 29.
Ever since the revolt, political circles were agog with speculation about a major reshuffle to fill the vacancies and drop loyalists of BJD MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, who had allegedly led the revolt, sources said.
While Patnaik had been carefully examining the whole issue since June, ruling BJD MLAs were lobbying hard in their bid to secure a berth in the council of ministers. Among the strong contenders for ministership are senior legislators and former ministers Damodar Rout, AU Singh Deo and Bijayashri Routray, the sources said.
Also in the race are tribal leader Sarojini Hembram, Ranendra Pratap Swain and Jhina Hikaka, who was abducted by Maoists in March this year and released later. Though there is speculation about the likelihood of some ministers getting dropped, no confirmation could be obtained. PTI