OdishaPlus Bureau

Jual Oram

When and where  did one last see Jual Oram, former Union Tribal Affairs Minister and winner of the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat for the record fifth time? Not certainly in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second cabinet. His very last engagement was on the occasion of Eid-ul -fitr when he used his twitter handle.

So, what is Jual finally  up to? Having missed the bus as a minister in Modi’s cabinet, will he now be considered for the post of Speaker in Lok Sabha as being speculated? Or will continue to be sidelined ?

BJP Flag

One section in the Odisha BJP feels that with new power centers emerging in party’s Odisha unit, Jual’s stature is consciously being lowered. In his constituency – tribal dominated Sundergarh – too there is lot of discontentment over Jual not being considered for a ministerial berth.And, such discontentment is not without reason.

But Oram being a major tribal face of the BJP in Odisha and adjoining states, the central leadership of the saffron party can’t overlook his case.

Till the Lok sabha results were out, Jual was the most popular tribal face of BJP in Odisha and his electoral performances were second to none with or without the Modi wave. He won as MLA from Bonai in 1990 and 1995 when BJP was a hatchling party. He resigned and won the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat in 1998 with a margin of 1.36 lakh votes and improved his victory margin to 1.52 lakh in 1999.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

When a separate Tribal Affairs Ministry was created by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jual was its first Cabinet Minister. He won from Sundargarh again in 2004 but lost narrowly in 2009. He bounced back in 2014 and was the only BJP Lok Sabha MP from Odisha. In 2019 too he won with a comfortable majority.

Modi 2.0

Since Jual repeated his electoral feat in the bitterly fought election, there was much hope that he will be taken in as a minister in Modi’s Council of Ministers. While the precise reason for his exclusion is not known, Jual’s supporters believe that their leader’s marginalization actually began in 2014 with creation of another power centre in Odisha. They have been accusing a powerful leader from the State of using his close propinquity with the top BJP leadership in New Delhi to make others,including Jual, unimportant.

There may be some truth in this charge, but given Modi’s new criteria of performance for union ministers Jual may have become  misfit. Given his vast political experience, administrative and leadership abilities, charming personality and easy accessibility, Jual may be considered for an important constitutional responsibility. But then it is all speculation.

The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha will begin on June 17 and election of new Speaker will take place on June 19. The President will address a joint sitting of the two houses on June 20.

Yet,Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, is known for springing a surprise. Modi’s new  emphasis on performance and aptitude is expected to guide the choice of the new Speaker. In PM’s  new scheme of things, the Speaker has to be knowledgeable  of rules and procedures and should be able  to carry along the entire House. Whether Jual will fit into this yardstick remains to be seen.

But Oram being a major tribal face of the BJP in Odisha and adjoining states, the central leadership of the saffron party can’t overlook his case.