Contenders galore for RS seats

Bhubaneswar: A day after Election Commission announced February 7 date for Rajya Sabha polls, names of several contenders are doing the rounds in the race to the upper house.

If sources are to be believed, former finance minister and BJD vice president Prafulla Ghadei is the frontrunner among the 15-odd strong contenders along with senior party leader and Bolangir MLA AU Singhdeo, who in 2012 had resigned from the Odisha cabinet, owning moral responsibility for the toxic alcohol tragedy that claimed at least 33 people in Odisha.

This apart, the name of Padmini Sekhar Deo is also being discussed in political circle as a strong candidate for the upper house, since she holds the chairperson post of Western Odisha Development Council (WODC), besides being a popular leader of the region where the party recently claimed a resounding victory by winning 15 out of 20 civic bodies.

Deo is also an executive committee member of the ruling party.

Political analysts however are not ruling out the possibility of Renubala Pradhan being re-elected to Rajya Sabha for a second term.

“The party supremo might re-elect Pradhan known for her clean image,” an analyst said requesting anonymity.

Pradhan (49) who hails from Ganjam district, was a zilla parishad president (1997-2002) and a zilla parishad member, before elected to Rajya Sabha in April 2008.

Since the poll calculation has already begun for BJD’s three RS seats out of four (as per calculation of MLAs’ vote weightage), party insiders feel that ex-minister and chairperson of the Orissa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Saraswati Hembram who belongs to tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district, could be party’s nominee to counter Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s (JMM) presence in the latter’s strongholds, looking at the ensuing general elections.

Meanwhile, the minority community is all agog about hearing the name of Odisha Film Development Corporation chairperson Munna Khan as a nominee on party ticket to the upper house for which the reigning heartthrob of the state’s film industry actor Anubhav Mohanty is also a contender from the film fraternity.

Highly places sources said internationally renowned sand artiste Sudarsan Pattnaik, sculptor and Padma Bibhusan awardee Raghunath Mohapatra and renowned weaver Padmashree Chaturbhuja Meher are among the names the party may consider for the RS seat.