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Pti

Bhubaneswar: Unable to take a decision on supporting BJD-backed independent candidate Raghunath Mohapatra in the February 7 Rajya Sabha elections in Odisha, BJP Legislature Party on Monday left the matter to be decided by the party's parliamentary board.

"We have taken a decision on the issue and will send our recommendation to the parliamentary board for consideration. We will make our stand clear after the approval of the board," BJP legislature party leader Jaynarayan Mishra told reporters after the BJP LP meeting.

The issue of supporting renowned sculptor Mohapatra, a Padma Vibhushan awardee, was debated in the meeting where some members did not agree to go by the decision of the ruling BJD.

"Mohapatra appeared to be BJD president Naveen Patnaik's candidate," senior MLA and BJP state president K V Sigghdeo had said.

However, some BJP leaders including party's national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan, were in favour of supporting Mohapatra as the eminent sculptor was considered as the pride of Odisha in terms of art and culture.

As there was difference of opinion in BJP, the party's legislature party decided to leave the matter to be decided by the Parliamentary Board.

BJP's vote in the Rajya Sabha elections is crucial as Mohapatra as been contesting against Congress candidate and IPL Chairman Ranjib Biswal for the fourth seat. Of the four vacant seats, three places easily go in favour of the ruling BJD in view of its number in the Assembly.

BJD has 108 MLAs in the House of 147 members. While BJD's three official candidates - A U Singhdeo, Kalpataru Das and Sarojini Hembram - will get first preference votes of 30 MLAs each, it has an extra 18 votes. Therefore, Mohapatra would get the vote of additional 18 BJD MLAs, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier announced.

As a candidate required at least 30 first preference votes to win the Rajya Sabha polls, Mohapatra as the fourth candidate has only 18 votes from the ruling party. Therefore, he has urged the BJP state leadership to suggest its six MLAs and one Independent MLA associated with the party to vote for him. But, Mohapatra is yet to get assurance from BJP in view of difference of opinion in the saffron outfit.

Congress candidate Ranjib Biswal on the other hand has first choice vote of 27 party MLAs besides the support of Braja Pradhan, an Independent MLA. "The party is hopeful of getting the vote of two other MLAs like Jitu Patnaik and George Tirkey," OPCC president Jaydev Jena said.

While Jitu Patnaik is yet to take a decision on the matter, Tirkey said he would decide it tomorrow.

As there is stiff contest for the fourth seat, BJP's vote is crucial, feel political observers.

A section of BJP leaders also suggest its MLAs to abstain from voting as the party maintained equal distance from both BJD and Congress.

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