'Delegation of work': BJD defends CM's pvt secy Pandian amid opposition protests
With Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary VK Pandian facing stiff opposition including black flag demonstrations during his district tours, the ruling BJD came to his rescue and defended his activities.
Pandian, a 2000-batch IAS officer, has been accused of violating the All India Service Rules for bureaucrats and acting like a politician. Opposition parties BJP and Congress demanded action against Pandian for allegedly crossing the Laxman Rekha for civil servants.
Complaints by BJP, Congress against Pandian
Both the BJP and Congress have lodged complaints against Pandian to the Centre, accusing him of exceeding his authority.
The complaint by the BJP MP AparajitaSarangi and the BJP state president Manmohan Samal to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said, “Mr. Pandian is moving around the State using State plane/helicopter and attending public reception. He is announcing new projects and as per his own claims, all this on the instruction of [the] CM. This is done in clear violation of Rule 5(I) and Rule 12 (I) of AISC Rules.”
Pandian served as Collector of Mayurbhanj and Ganjam (Naveen Patnaik’s home district), before being appointed as the chief minister’s private secretary in May 2011.
Since 2019, Pandian has been in charge of the Odisha government’s 5T initiative, as well as the “Mo Sarkar” program, aimed at receiving public feedback. The recent drive by Patnaik’s government to transform temples, schools, and infrastructure projects is said to be Pandian’s initiative.
BJD defends Pandian
BJD senior vice-president and former MP Prasanna Acharya, however, defended Pandian and said he had been doing work assigned to him by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
Replying to the opposition allegation that Pandian undertakes district tours and announces sops, Acharya on Thursday (June 29) said the chief minister had entrusted him to visit places and hear the grievances of people.
Referring to the opposition allegation that the chief minister delegated his powers to Pandian, Acharya said, “This is not delegation of power, but delegation of work. As the head of the administration, the CM entrusts people with different responsibilities in the government. He has the constitutional right to assign any government official any work.”
Acharya said the chief minister also asked ministers and even the chief secretary to engage with the public directly. The opposition parties were making an issue out of a non-issue, he said.
On the Union government’s letter to Odisha chief secretary to take appropriate action against the officer in the midst of allegation of violating the norms of the All India Conduct Rules, Acharya said, “This is nothing new. Administrative letters do come from the Centre.”
Centre’s letter can act like an atom bomb: BJP leader tells BJD
BJP leader and opposition chief whip Mohan Majhi, however, cautioned the BJD government not to take the Centre’s letter lightly.
“This letter can act like an atom bomb and destroy the government,” he cautioned, adding that the Centre had asked the chief secretary to take appropriate action as the controlling authority of IAS officers.
Senior Congress leader Taraprasad Bahinpati said Odisha was now being ruled by Babutantra (Bureaucratic rule).
“I blame the elected representatives of the BJD. Instead of raising objections, they are all praise for Pandian. An MP recently said Pandian sir is our CM. The ruling party leaders are silent as they fear denial of tickets in the elections,” Bahinipati said.
While the exchange of words among the parties over the Pandian issue continued in the state capital, the chief minister’s private secretary, who is on a visit to Jagatsinghpur district, faced the ire of BJP supporters.
The saffron party activists wore black dresses and shouted “Pandian Go Back”, protesting Pandian’s visit to the district. Protests were seen at Rahama, Kujang, and Pradip during the day.
(With inputs from agencies)