Biju Janata Dal president and former Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has assumed control over his party as former bureaucrat turned politician VK Pandian quit politics following the BJD’s dismal failure in the recently held Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Pandian, who was private secretary to Patnaik for more than a decade, quit the Indian Administrative Service and joined the BJD last year. He played a key role in the distribution of party tickets and virtually led the party’s campaign.

This had resulted in the BJP whipping up regional sentiments by accusing that the regional party was being taken over by the former bureaucrat, who hails from Tamil Nadu. Pandian had announced during campaign meetings that he would retire from politics if Patnaik failed to win the polls to become Chief Minister for the sixth consecutive term.

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party defeated the BJD in the recent polls, Patnaik has been meeting his party leaders and workers from different parts of the State and inspiring them to serve the people as before, said a BJD leader who met Patnaik after the party’s debacle in the polls.

Patnaik, who interacted with the leaders who won and lost the elections in separate meetings, is said to be in good health, contrary to the BJP campaign about his health conditions during the election campaign. He is likely to be the leader of the opposition in the State Assembly for the first time after serving as the Chief Minister for 24 years.

New CM

On the other hand, the BJP failed to name the new Chief Minister of the State until Monday evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his election meetings, said that the new leader would be “an Odia,” and the swearing-in ceremony will be held in Bhubaneswar on June 10.

The swearing-in ceremony, however, was delayed, and the party has announced that the new Chief Minister will be sworn in on June 12. Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Senior party leaders Rajnath Singh and Bhupender Yadav have been appointed as observers for the BJP legislature party meeting scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. The BJP parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body of the party, will take the final call, according to sources.

Top contenders

The top contenders for the Chief Minister’s post include Suresh Pujari, KV Singh Deo, and Mohan Majhi, who have been elected to the State Assembly. Although Dharmendra Pradhan was being tipped to be Chief Minister, the party seem have decided not to cause by-elections in the State. The party may spring a surprise by announcing a name that was not being discussed in the party circles, sources said.

The BJP, which remained the BJD’s partner in the alliance that ruled Odisha for nine years from 2000 to 2009, ousted the regional party from power this time by bagging 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 78 of the 147 Assembly seats. The BJD failed to win even a single Lok Sabha seat, though it managed to win 51 Assembly seats.