Is 2019 Odisha Rajya Sabha Polls Encore On The Cards?

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Bhubaneswar:  As lobbying for Rajya Sabha berths has started within the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), all eyes are on how the Naveen Patnaik-led party will approach the elections considering the fact that it supported a BJP candidate Ashwini Vaishnaw during the 2019 polls to the Upper House.

Political circles are agog with speculation on whether the BJD, which has 113 MLAs in the 147-member Odisha Assembly, will contest for all four seats or enter into some kind of an understanding with BJP, the
principal opposition party. Given its strength, the regional party can easily win three of the four seats up for grabs. The BJP, with 23 legislators, however, cannot win a single seat on its own. The Congress (nine), CPM (one) and Independent (one) fill up the remaining seats in the state legislature.

While the Congress would depend on the CPM to be eligible to put up a nominee (at least ten proposers are required for a candidate), the BJP has gone on record that it would surely be entering the fray.

However, the BJD is yet to announce the number of contenders it would field for the March 26 polls, necessitated by vacancies created by Narendra Swain, Sarojini Hembram, Anubhav Mohanty (all BJD) and Ranjib Biswal (Congress). This has provided grist to political mills, with talk that the BJD and the BJP might go for an understanding doing the rounds. The BJP needs to bolster its strength in the House of Elders where it is in minority to ensure smooth passage of Bills that it intends to pass. Currently, it has 82 members (NDA has 97) in the 245-member House.

Referring to this, senior Congress leader Suresh Routray took a dig at the BJD on Thursday and said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has of late been supporting the saffron party on different issues and might not
hesitate to give two seats to the BJP. “A chief minister, who has retained the power on his own strength and merit, need not run after others. But I don’t know why of late he is in a compromising mood,” he
told journalists when asked about whether an encore of the 2019 RS elections is likely.

The BJD’s support for BJP’s Vaishnaw, a former Odisha cadre IAS officer, had raised eyebrows as it came just after a bitter 2019 twin polls. Thereafter, increasing bonhomie between the two parties has resulted in Naveen’s party backing several legislations tabled by the Narendra Modi government in Parliament.

Even steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is seen of the BJP’s face in Odisha, has ostensibly become more guarded in his criticism of the BJD dispensation. His meeting with Naveen along with some delegates from Japan to discuss business opportunities here on Thursday, on the eve of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to address a convention on Citizenship Amendment Act, has left many tongues wagging.

BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb, in turn, brushed aside queries regarding Congress’ allegation that the Union Minister might discuss seat-sharing in RS polls with the Chief Minister and termed it as baseless.

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