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Big setback for BJD before polls

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Sujata Kartikeyan shifted from Mission Shakti Dept, after BJP team meets ECI

BHUBANESWAR: In what is said to be a major jolt for the ruling  BJD, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday ordered the transfer of Secretary of Odisha’s Mission Shakti Department Sujata R Karthikeyan to a non-public dealing department with immediate effect.

 Now, Sujata has been appointed as Special Secretary in the Finance Department. Health Secretary Shalini Pandit has been appointed as the new Mission Shakti Secretary. She is the wife of BJD leader VK Pandian, who took a plunge into State politics after taking voluntary retirement from the All India Civil Services in October 2023.

The order was issued within hours of the BJP accusing the 2000-batch IAS officer of ‘actively’ operating as an agent of the ruling BJD. In its representation to the ECI, the BJP stated that Sujata was “misusing” her position and SVEEP of the Election Commission to influence around 70,000 women attached with Self-Help Groups under Mission Shakti for “electoral gains of BJD”.

 “It is extremely unfortunate that the serving IAS officer has given a go-bye to professionalism and is actively indulging as an agent of the BJD because of the influence of her husband on her. It would have been fair and proper for her to understand the implications of her being the wife of Pandian and, further understanding his role in the overall gamut of ongoing elections, she should have proceeded on leave and disassociated herself from anything to do with public dealing during the elections,” the BJP said, demanding that she should not be given any responsibility till the elections are over.

Notably, Naveen Patnaik-led BJD has been successful in garnering female votes ever since his government started Mission Shakti, a programme to strengthen women SHGs, in 2001. It was turned into a directorate in April 2018 and carved out as a separate department on June 1, 2020 with Sujata at its helm to exclusively work for around 70 lakh rural women associated with nearly six lakh women SHGs.

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