VK Pandian has taken voluntary retirement as Naveen Patnaik's private secretary
A day after his request for a voluntary retirement came through, VK Pandian, former private secretary to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has been given a cabinet minister rank in the state government.
An order issued by Odisha's General Administration and Public Grievance department said the IAS officer has been appointed as chairman of the state government's 5T (Transformation Initiatives) and Nabin Odisha scheme. The order mentions that he will hold a cabinet minister rank.
Earlier, sources from the ruling BJD had said Mr Pandian may join the party and is likely to be given a bigger role ahead of next year's Assembly polls, news agency PTI reported.
A 2000-batch IAS officer of Odisha cadre, Mr Pandian started his career as the sub-collector of Dharmagarh in Kalahandi in 2002. He was appointed the collector of Mayurbhanj in 2005, and then in 2007, he was made the collector of Ganjam. It was during his posting in Ganjam that he became a trusted officer of the Chief Minister. Mr Pandian joined the Chief Minister's Office in 2011, and was later promoted as his Mr Patnaik's private secretary.
Mr Pandian's rise as the most trusted aide of the BJD chief has drawn fire from the the party's rivals, who have accused him of misusing a bureacrat's position.
Soon after his request for voluntary retirement came through, Congress MP Saptagiri Ulaka said he would not be surprised if Mr Pandian took charge as chief minister of Odisha before the next polls.
"...such is the power structure in Odisha, no one has clue what's happening but everyone knows who's controlling. VRS approved in 3 days during holidays - Super Fast," he said in a post on X.
Senior Congress MLA SS Saluja said Mr Pandian should have quit public service earlier. "We do not know whether he will join politics or return back to his own state. However, if he joins the BJD, then it will be helpful for the opposition, the Congress is particular," Mr Saluja told news agency PTI.
BJP chief whip Mohan Majhi said, "Now, he will be able to do politics openly instead of with the mask of a bureaucrat on. He will not be accepted by the people of Odisha."