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3-min read

BJD in Odisha Faces Problem of Plenty in Picking Candidates for Three Vacant Rajya Sabha Seats

The last date for filing nominations for the polls is June 25, but Naveen Patnaik is reportedly still undecided on which three leaders to field.

Anand ST Das | News18

Updated:June 17, 2019, 11:59 PM IST
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Naveen Patnaik
File photo of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. (Image: PTI)

Bhubaneswar: With bypolls for the three of four vacant Rajya Sabha seats in Odisha being held on July 5, the ruling Biju Janata Dal party is grappling to choose contenders. Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik, widely hailed as the “Chanakya of politics,” had fielded six of the party’s Rajya Sabha members in the simultaneous Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, a gamble that yielded mixed results for the party.

Now, with bypolls nearing, the party finds it hard to name its candidates, even though their victory is a foregone conclusion.

The last date for filing nominations for the polls is June 25. But Patnaik is reportedly still undecided on which three leaders to field. While his decision to field six Rajya Sabha members in the battle of 2019 was spurred in part by the need to quell rebellion in the BJD, the nomination of three leaders to the Upper House now presents possibilities of a fresh round of revolts in the party.

With at least ten senior leaders vying for the three Rajya Sabha berths, it is a problem of plenty for the party which returned to power for a record fifth term in Odisha with more than a two-third majority in the Assembly.

The simultaneous polls in Odisha in April-May led to four Rajya Sabha seats from the state falling vacant, but polls are being held for three. These are the berths vacated by BJD leaders Achyuta Samanta, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Pratap Keshari Deb.

Samanta, an internationally acclaimed educationist and entrepreneur, got elected to Lok Sabha from tribal-dominated Kalahandi constituency. Patnaik, who owns and edits a top Odia newspaper and TV news channel, was elected to the Assembly from Khandapada constituency in Nayagarh district, while Deb, a former minister, was elected to the Assembly from Aul in Kendrapara district.

The fourth vacant seat was represented by Odia movie actor-turned-politician Anubhav Mohanty, who got elected to Lok Sabha from Kendrapara constituency. While Patnaik and Samanta had completed just a year of their tenure, Deb had completed three. Since only ten months of Mohanty’s tenure were left, Election Commission of India (ECI) decided to hold polls for his seat along with the four others from the state that are falling vacant on April 2 next year.

Two veteran BJD lawmakers who were denied tickets in the recently concluded simultaneous polls are likely to be the party’s nominees for the Rajya Sabha. They are five-term Bhubaneswar MP Prasanna Patsani and five-term Berhampur MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik.

While Naveen Patnaik had personally announced that he would send Chyau Patnaik, 76, to the Upper House, Patsani, who is a founder-member of BJD and the party’s vice-president, recently said that he was promised the same by the CM. An eminent writer and orator, 73-year-old Patsani has authored 60 books.

BJD insiders say while the CM is likely to honour the promises made to Chyau Patnaik and Patsani, there is a lack of consensus in the party about the third seat.

Among senior BJD leaders who have been lobbying hard for the Rajya Sabha berths are former Balasore MP Rabindra Jena, who lost the polls, senior BJD leader Prafulla Ghadai, who was brought back to the party after his expulsion in 2014, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, lost the polls in Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency, and former minister Maheswar Mohanty, who lost the Assembly polls in Puri.

BJD sources said bureaucrat-turned-politician Amar Patnaik is also a strong contender for an RS seat. A former Principal Accountant General who joined BJD less than a year ago, Amar Patnaik heads the party’s social media wing and had played a crucial role in ensuring the party’s victory.

Besides, former BJD MLA Pushpendra Singhdeo, who lost in Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency, and former minister Sanjay Das Burma, who was defeated in Brahmagiri Assembly constituency, are also in the queue seeking a Rajya Sabha nomination, said sources.

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