Lobbying begins for Odisha RS race; Naveen keeps cards close to his chest

Bhubaneswar: No sooner did the Election Commission of India (ECI) issue the notification for the three vacant Rajya Sabha seats in Odisha, an intense lobbying has begun in the ruling BJD.

The BJD aspirant list for the Upper House not only has politicians, names of former bureaucrats and cine stars are also featuring prominently. The polls for the Rajya Sabha were necessitated following the resignation from the RS membership by party leaders – Achyuta Samanta, Pratap Keshari Deb and Somuya Ranjan Patnaik.

While Samanta resigned from the Upper House of the Parliament after getting elected to the 17th Lok Sabha, Deb vacated the Rajya Sabha seat on June 9, after getting elected to the 16th Odisha Legislative Assembly. Patnaik also resigned from RS membership on June 6 after getting elected to the Odisha Legislative Assembly.

Though three RS seats are up for grab in the State, nearly half -a-dozen names are doing the rounds in the party circles. Prominent names in the RS race are former MPs Prasanna Patsani, Ramesh Chandra Chaupatnaik and Rabindra Jena, former Odisha Minister Maheswar Mohanty, former IAAS officer Amar Patnaik and ex-IPS Arup Patnaik. However, Patsani and Chaupatnaik are seemingly the frontrunners in the race.

Names of Odia cine actor Akash Das Nayak, Srimayi Mishra are also figured in the race for the RS.

“When I served in Police, I used to give orders and also take so from others. As now I have joined a political party, whatever decision the party leadership assigns to me, I will definitely accept it,” opined Arup Patnaik.

Prasanna Pattsani said, “If I am not selected, I will think that the CM does not want me to represent the State in the Rajya Sabha. I will accept whatever decision CM takes. There is nothing to worry about it. But if anyone is conspiring against me then I will have no qualms.”

It need to be reminded that during general elections, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced that former Bhubaneswar MP Patsani will be sent to RS. Similarly, Chaupatnaik publicly claimed that party high command has assured him to sent to the Upper House.

As dark horses too have their days in politics, the name of former Champua MLA Sanatan Mahakud figuring of late in the list has taken political observers by surprise. The gossip is BJD supremo may reward Mahakud for his unflinching support to BJD in Keonjhar during polls 2019.

The RS by-elections will take place on July 5, 2019, reads an ECI release. As per the schedule, the last day for filing of nominations is June 25, and the counting of votes will be done at 5 PM on July 5, after the polling ends. The by-poll process need to be completed before July 9.

It is pertinent to mention that Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Achyuta Samanta had their RS term till April 3, 2024;  whereas Pratap Deb’s tenure in RS was to end on July 1, 2022.

Political experts believe that ruling-BJD with 112 MLAs in the State Assembly may make a  clean sweep of the 3 Rajya Sabha seats going to the polls. But the RS polls next year will prove tricky for the ruling BJD, when tenure of 4 Rajya Sabha members from Odisha will come to an end on April 2, 2020.