VK Pandian, the former private secretary to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, was inducted into the Biju Janata Dal party on Monday, reported The Hindu.

Pandian’s role and position in the party is still uncertain.

“The CM told Pandian to work for the party and the state the way he worked with him as his [private secretary] for the past 13-14 years,” BJD MP Pinaki Mishra told The Indian Express. “The CM said his past administrative and political experience will be an asset for the party.”

Patnaik and other senior party leaders were present at Pandian’s induction ceremony.

Pandian, 48, began his career as the deputy collector of Dharmagarh in Kalahandi district. He went on to become the district magistrate of Mayurbhanj and Ganjam districts before his posting in the Chief Minister’s Office in 2011. He was born in Tamil Nadu.

A close aide of Patnaik, Pandian has served as his private secretary for 12 years. The Biju Janata Dal government appointed him as the chairperson of the state’s Nabin Odisha and 5T (Transparency, Technology, Teamwork, Time and Transformation) programmes with a Cabinet rank. This happened just a day after Pandian’s voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Service in October.

The 5T initiative is Pandian’s brainchild and was launched in 2019. The state government has said that the programme has transformed over 4,000 high schools with refurbished classrooms, laboratories and playgrounds.

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has questioned Patnaik’s alleged reliance on bureaucrats more than his party colleagues. BJP national president JP Nadda had alleged at a rally in Kalahandi in June that the Odisha administration had been “outsourced to bureaucracy”.

In September, BJD leader Ranjan Patnaik was removed from his post as the party’s vice president for being critical of Pandian.

“Bureaucrats should not be doing politics. Secretaries should be helping the ministers, but it should not be the other way around,” Ranjan Patnaik had told The Print at the time. “If the CM wants to send someone [to raise awareness about schemes and outreach] he should send elected leaders.”