Power Exchange: BJD brings Rajya Sabha trade-off plan to win over dissidence

....As BJD list for first, second phase polls has two sitting Rajya Sabha (RS) members ; 1 more RS member is to join poll fray in coming phases

Bhubaneswar: They say politicians never wish to become ‘postmaster’ as they want ‘post’ with ‘power’. And in BJD jockeying for ‘posts’ has already begun for a different race – the race for Rajya Sabha, when other political parties are busy  giving final touches to candidate list for four-phase 2019 polls.

Since the BJD list for first and second phase polls announced by CM Naveen Patnaik has two sitting Rajya Sabha (RS) members – Prasanna Acharya and Achyuta Samanta, lobbying  has begun in party for likely RS vacancies. Moreover, party is also using it as political inducement tool to buy peace with disgruntled leaders denied tickets. There is a buzz doing round in BJD that party is going to make one more of its RS sitting members as BJD LS face in last two phase polls. Top party sources confirmed that at least three RS seats will be up for grabs post 2019 elections.

The power-play in BJD for RS seats is not a gossip. Even, five-time MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik has stated so openly to media persons only recently about how party offered him a RS seat in lieu of nomination from Berhampur Assembly Constituency. Party may send one more woman to Rajya Sabha in line with BJD’s 33 per cent for women in Parliament and Assemblies, reveal top BJD sources.

Significantly, while BJD is apparently ahead of rivals in Kandhamal, the party was on a shaky pitch in Baragarh. But in a clever political strategy, party persuaded CM Patnaik to contest from Bijepur in Bargarh. The party hopes to emerge victorious in Bargarh now.

In Bargarh, the gap in vote share between BJD and BJP in 2014 LS elections was mere 1 per cent. In Parliament elections, one per cent vote gap in seats is considered marginal. If one goes by the 2017 rural polls data, BJP had not only zoomed past  BJD but also increased its vote lead over BJD by over 4 per cent. An alarmed BJD Bargarh unit sent SOS to CM Naveen to take the BJD mantle in Bargarh.

Interestingly, in politics body language coveys all. While announcing his decision to contest from Western Odisha, the CM flanked by Prasanna Acharya, said the unsaid. And Prasanna Acharya, currently a RS member, was later declared BJD face from Bargarh LS.

However, BJD that was sitting pretty for Kandhamal LS, pitted Achyuta Samanta for the seat.  None of its rivals had a vote share anywhere near BJD. The party, since 2004, increased its vote share from around 40 per cent to over 61 per cent in 2014 by-elections. BJD’s vote polled were nearly two times than that of its nearest rivals. The BJD has never repeated its LS nominee from the seat since 2004. Hoping to retain the place again in 2019, BJD  made Samanta the LS candidate, and, coincidently, he is also a sitting RS member.

Political observers see a pattern in BJD nominating sitting RS members for Lok Sabha polls, despite the fact that the BJD has candidates galore in Kandhamal and Bargarh. This seems a calculated strategy by BJD to curb dissidence over tickets, they observe.