Lobbying hots up in Odisha’s BJD for bypoll to three RS seats

Bhubneswar: With the Election Commission announcing July 5 as the date for conducting by-polls to three Rajya Sabha seats in Odisha, hectic lobbying was underway in the ruling Biju Janata Dal, headed by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, sources in the party said. Among the leaders vying for a Rajya Sabha ticket were former Bhubaneswar MP Prasanna Patsani, former Berhampur MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik, former bureaucrat Amar Patnaik, and former Balasore MP Rabinda Jena, who lost the just-concluded polls.

Senior BJD leader Prafulla Ghadai, who was expelled in 2014 and re-inducted in the run-up to the polls, was also one of the hopefuls, the sources said. Patsani, the former parliamentarian from Bhubaneswar, said, “I was assured a Rajya Sabha berth after being denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections. I have full faith in the chief minister. He will make me a candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls.” Echoing similar sentiments, former legislator Chyau Patnaik also said that he has been promised a Rajya Sabha berth by the BJD president.

The seats fell vacant after the sitting BJD MPs resigned from their membership in the wake of their election to the Lok Sabha and the state Assembly. “Altogether, four Upper House seats in the state have fallen vacant, following the resignation of MPs Achyuta Samant, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and PK Deb and Anubhav Mohanty, but the EC issued notices for three,” an official at the Assembly secretariat said.

There will be no election in the fourth seat, vacated by Mohanty, as its tenure was about to end in a year, he added. While Samanta and Mohanty have been elected to Lok Sabha from Kandhamal and Kendrapara parliamentary seats respectively, Patnaik and Deb won the Assembly polls from Khandapada and Aul constituencies.

All three vacant seats are likely to be retained by the BJD, keeping in view the number of seats the regional party has bagged in the recently held Assembly elections. The Naveen Patnaik-led party has 111 MLAs in the 147- member House, while the BJP has 23 legislators, the Congress nine and the CPI(M) and an Independent one each.

Two assembly seats – Patkura and Bijepur- remained vacant where polling will be held later. As one candidate in the Rajya Sabha by-poll would require the support of 38 MLAs to win, the BJD has adequate strength to secure all three seats, the party sources added.