Bhubaneswar: With five of the 21 ministerial berths vacant in Odisha following dismissal of three rebels after a failed coup bid and two resigning earlier, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday hinted at a cabinet expansion.
"Ministry reshuffle is likely soon ... Sooner or later. It will be done at the right time. You will be the first to know about it," the chief minister told reporters when asked about the possibility of a cabinet expansion.
Three ministers, Anjali Behera holding women and child development portfolio, Sanjeev Sahu with commerce and transport and Sarada Prasad Nayak with urban and housing, were dismissed recently.
Earlier in February, then agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy resigned over the Pipili rape case and excise minister A U Sighdeo after the hooch tragedy which left 38 people dead.
Party sources said that three ministers, who were close to Rajya Sabha MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, suspended from the BJD on the charge of attempting to topple the Naveen Patnaik government, were likely to be axed in the reshuffle.
Of the 108 BJD MLAs, including 4 from NCP who joined recently, only 16 have been ministers.
Senior leaders in the race for a ministerial berth were former ministers A U Singhdeo, Damodar Rout, Bijayshree Routray, Debashish Nayak, Rabi Narayan Nanda, Kalandi Behera, Bed Prakash Agarwal, Bishnu Das, Padmanabha Behera and Pramila Mallick.
Dharmasala MLA Kalpataru Das and Banki MLA Pravat Tripathy were also among the hopefuls.
Juniors such as Arun Sahu, Sanjay Dasburma, Debashis Samantray, Ashok Panda and Sipra Mallick were also in the race.
Both senior and junior MLAs were lobbying hard by openly attacking Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, while aspirants were thronging the state secretariat and Naveen Niwas, the residence of the chief minister.