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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: With the general elections nearing, political parties are gearing up to select candidates. The ruling-BJD, which has been at the helm of affairs for the last nineteen years, is reportedly facing worries over candidate selection due to involvement of several of its party leaders in the multi-crore chit fund scam.

At a time when the chit fund scam issue is already creating a state-wide uproar, the top brass of the ruling party is believed to be in a dilemma over granting tickets to tainted party candidates. While several leaders of the BJD have been implicated in the scam, it is the presence of some top leaders, especially those who are believed to be the part of the so called ‘coterie’ and the 'power centre' of the party, has now become a major challenge for party president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as far as candidate selection is concerned.

It may be noted that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested MLA Pravat Tripathy, Pravat Biswal, MP Ram Chandra Hansda for their chit fund links. This apart, Balasore MP Rabindra Jena and MLA Pranab Balabantaray were also grilled in connection with the multi-crore chit fund scam. Not only this, some members of the 'coterie' like MLA Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Arun Sahu and Sanjay Das Burma also had received CBI notices in connection with the scam.

Amid anti-incumbency wave, as the BJD is looking to set sail on the back of brand Naveen, questions are being raised whether party president Naveen Patnaik will give importance to the profiles of these leaders or will the party try to project its clean image by sidelining them.

However, these leaders are optimistic about contesting elections.

While sources said that BJD will be giving importance to criteria like winnability, personality with good public acceptance and dedication to the party, experts are of the view that the likelihood of chit fund scam-linked politicians getting tickets is very slim.

“It is definitely sure that BJD will not grant tickets to tainted leaders having links with chit fund fraud, be it the ones who have been accused or those who are likely to be convicted. If the party does not sideline them, it may have an adverse impact on its prospects,” said political expert Rabi Das.

On the other hand, the ruling party has said that president Naveen Patnaik will soon take a decision in this regard.

“CBI is yet to file final chargesheets, so one cannot claim that he or she (party leaders) is tainted. The party president will take appropriate decision in this regard at an appropriate time," said Rajya Sabha member and party spokesperson Pratap Deb

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