IPL Chairman Ranjib Biswal's Rajya Sabha entry bleak

Factionalism in Congress makes Ranjib Biswal’s entry to Rajya Sabha doubtful


Sanjay Behera | February 7, 2014

While the IPL Chairman and Congress candidate Ranjib Biswal is confident of winning the Rajya Sabha election for the fourth seat from Odisha, the fraction in the Odisha Pradesh Congress Party makes his prospects of entering the Rajya Sabha bleak. He may not reach the magic figure of 30 first preference votes as the independents and CPI may not vote for him.

Meanwhile, the CPI declared that its lone MLA, Adikanda Sethy, will support the BJD-backed independent candidate Raghunath Mohapatra for the fourth Rajya Sabha seat from the state. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state secretariat of the CPI, state secretary of the party, Dibakar Nayak, said.

“The party has taken a decision to support Mohapatra in the Rajya Sabha polls,” Sethy said. “And I will abide by the party decision.”

The decision was on expected lines as the CPI has been an ally of the BJD in the state and the alliance is likely to continue in the ensuing elections.

However, Mohapatra has an uphill task of mustering the support of 11 more MLAs to get the magic number to go to the upper house of parliament. The BJD will have 18 surplus votes after electing three of its candidates.

With 27 Congress MLAs in the assembly and independent MLAs from Talcher Braja Kishore Pradhan extending his support, Congress candidate Ranjib Biswal needs two more votes, which is not confirmed.

Suspended BJP MLA Bhimsen Choudhury and independent MLAs – Jitu Patnaik and George Tirkey – will play a key role in the Rajya Sabha polls on February 7.

In a dilemma after BJD announced support for renowned sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra as an independent candidate for the fourth seat, the state unit of Congress is yet to decide on its next course of action for the Rajya Sabha polls.

Sources said that the Congress high command is yet to decide on Odisha though president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC), Jaydev Jena, was in New Delhi.

Congress has 27 members in the Assembly and needs three more to win a seat. However, fear of cross voting is holding the party back from announcing its decision. The party is also divided on whether to field a candidate for the fourth seat.

Besides, there is also lack of interest among the party leaders to contest the Rajya Sabha polls. No senior leader except Dolagobind Pradhan has expressed keenness to contest the Rajya Sabha polls.

BJD maintained that chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced the three official candidates of the party, A U Singhdeo, Kalpatura Das and Ms Hembram.

The four Rajya Sabha MPs from the State, whose terms will end on April 2, are Ramachandra Khuntia of Congress, Mangala Kissan and Renubala Pradhan from BJD and Balbir Punj of the BJP.

In the current Assembly, the BJD has 107 members and the Congress 27, the BJP six, the CPI one while there are six independent members. The voting would take place on February 7. Filing of nominations continued till January 28.

However, as the State BJP is yet to take a formal decision on the BJD-backed Independent candidate, renowned sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, for the Rajya Sabha poll, the statement of senior BJP leader Ashok Sahu that the party legislators should abstain from voting has made Raghunath’s chances a bit difficult.

Sahu’s statement has also brought to the fore the feeling in the BJP that a BJD-backed candidate should not be supported. Stating that Raghunath is the fourth candidate of the BJD for all practical purposes, the senior BJP leader said voting for Raghunath by the party legislators would amount to extending support to the regional outfit.

As voting for the Congress candidate by the BJP does not arise, under these circumstances the best way open for the BJP legislators is to abstain from voting, Sahu said.

The BJP leader said the BJD will have to resort to horse-trading to ensure Raghunath’s victory and in such an event, the BJP’s move to abstain will expose both the Congress and the BJD.

The BJP Legislature Party had formally met to take a decision in this regard. Though at formal announcement of the party’s decision will be made, sources said the legislators will unanimously reject the proposal for extending support to Raghunath. The decision will be announced by the parliamentary board of the party.

Meanwhile, the BJD has also started distancing itself from Raghunath by maintaining that the candidate will have to make moves for getting the support of MLAs from other political parties and independent legislators. Parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das said the BJD will not approach any MLA to vote for Raghunath. He is an independent candidate who is supported by the BJD, Das said, and added that the party’s 18 surplus votes will go to him.

The Congress, which has now become more confident about the victory of its candidate Ranjib Biswal, is yet to get any commitment from two independent MLAs about their support. Senior party leaders, however, maintained that efforts are being made to ensure that the Congress candidate reaches the winning figure without difficulty.



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