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Pradeep Pattanayak

With the filing of nomination papers for the conduct of the election to Rajya Sabha (RS) seats beginning today, speculations are rife that the Biju Janata Dal will field at least two women candidates in the poll. 

Notably, three BJD seats, which will fall vacant on July 1, are presently held by Prasanna Acharya, N. Bhaskar Rao and Sasmit Patra, all leaders from the ruling party. 

At the same time, following the resignation of Cuttack Mayor Subash Singh, his seat has also fallen vacant. 

Political experts opine that it is quite evident considering the Biju Janata Dal’s strength in the State Assembly, all the four seats may go to the pocket of the ruling party.

Meanwhile, political circles is abuzz with talks that the party is likely to field two women for the four vacant seats. 

At present, Mamata Mohanta is the only women member from the BJD in Rajya Sabha. If two women are elected to the Upper House, the number would go up to three, resulting in 33 percent of seats of Odisha quota occupied by women, a promise which infact has been long assured by the ruling party.

If calculations are to be believed, Sushmita Bagchi, Chairperson of Mo School Abhiyan and wife of noted entrepreneur Subroto Bagchi, Shreemayee Mishra, Chairperson of Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC), BJD spokesperson Sulata Deo and ex-MLA Raseswari Panigrahi are in the race to be nominated for the elections to prestigious posts in the Parliament's Upper House.

At the same time, observers are of the opinion that scheduled caste and backward class women may also get their share of due importance during the process of candidate selection. 

"The Chief Minister has been giving ample importance to women candidates. This time will be no different either. It would be better if three instead of two women are sent,” said BJD MLA Usha Devi. 

In the event of two women being finalised, for the remaining two seats, former Odisha Congress strongman Pradeep Majhi  and ex-Indian Railway Service bureaucrat Santosh Amat are emerging as the top contenders. 

Yet, the names of Asit Kumar Tripathy, who is the Principal Advisor to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, BJD’s general secretary (media affairs ) Manas Mangaraj and Lenin Mohanty are also cropping up as the possible faces who might be chosen to contest.

Chances are also high that Sasmit Patra may once again be renominated, considering him being active in the House. 

At the same time, as the government is in crosshairs of Oppositions due to the ongoing Srimandir Heritage Corridor project, there is also possibility that the party may consider a person who has deep knowledge in Odisha culture and heritage. 

“Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will take the final call. He is known for taking appropriate decision at appropriate time,” said BJD Spokesperson Pratap Deb.

Concurring with Deb, MLA Aswini Patra said, “It will all depend on our Supremo’s decision. There is no denying that he would choose the most able candidate.” 

However, Naveen, who is best known for playing cards closest to his chest may surprise all and prove the speculations wrong by announcing new names at the last moment.

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