A day after the union government approved the voluntary retirement of VK Pandian, private secretary to Odisha Chief Minister, the Odisha government appointed him as the chairman of 5T initiative and Nabin Odisha with a cabinet rank.
The state general administration department’s order said Pandian would work directly under the Chief Minister Navin Patnaik. It means that the former IAS officer of the 2000 batch will continue to wield extraordinary influence in governance, though the state government is yet to clarify the role of Pandian in the department.
An order signed by principal secretary Surendra Kumar said, “VK Pandian has been appointed as the head of 5T initiative and the post is equivalent to a cabinet minister. He will work directly under the Chief
The 5T – Transparency, Teamwork, Technology and Time leading to Transformation – was launched recently to overhaul the administrative apparatus and the state government claims to have transformed over 4,000 high schools in the state with refurbished classrooms, laboratories and playgrounds.
With the state government having recently approved the Rs 4,000 crore ‘Ama Odisha, Nabin Odisha (Our Odisha, New Odisha)’ scheme under which every panchayat will get Rs 50 lakh to take up different projects, it will now be implemented under the direct supervision of Pandian.
Pandian, a native of Vellore district in Tamil Nadu, cleared IAS examination in 2000 and was appointed sub-collector of Dharamgarh in Kalahandi district, wherein he was involved in farmers' rights and streamlined paddy procurement. After working as collectors in multiple districts, he assumed charge as the private secretary of Chief Minister Navin Patnaik in 2011. Since then, he has been holding a strong place both in the government and in the party. He is seen as the right hand of Patnaik.
Pandian applied for voluntary retirement on October 20 and the union government approved it on October 23. Amid the speculations that he might plunge in full-time politics, the state government has given him a cabinet rank.
He is also expected to contest in the upcoming assembly election.
He attended a secret meeting held between Chief Ministers of three states – Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal.
BJP’s Odisha whip Moham Maji said that Pandian can now freely act as a politician without having to wear the mask of an IAS officer but the public will not accept him.
Congress MP Saptagiri Ulaga said that it will not be surprising even if he assumes charge as the Chief Minister of the state.