Bhubaneswar: Six Rajya Sabha (RS) members of the ruling BJD have jumped into the electoral battle for the first time in the history of Odisha with the latest being Sarojini Hembram, who has been picked by the party for Mayurbhanj Assembly seat Sunday.
Political observers are baffled over the decision of BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to field six RS members while many ticket hopefuls, senior leaders and sitting MLAs are lobbying and staging protests before Naveen Niwas for tickets.
The Rajya Sabha MPs contesting the 2019 elections are Prasanna Acharya, Achyuta Samanta, Anubhav Mohanty, Pratap Keshari Deb, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Sarojini Hembram.
The CM dropped incumbent Kandhamal Lok Sabha MP Pratyusha Rajeswari Singh, Bargarh MP Prabhas Kumar Singh and Khandapada MLA Anubhav Patnaik and offered tickets to sitting RS members.
While Achyuta Samanta is contesting from the Kandhamal LS constituency, Prasanna Acharya will try his luck from the Bargarh LS seat and Soumya Ranja Patnaik is in the fray from the Khandapara Assembly constituency. Similarly, Rajya Sabha MPs Pratap Keshari Deb and Sarojini Hembram have been fielded from Aul and Mayurbhanj Assembly seats.
The decision to field RS MPs has created a lot of resentment in the party. A peeved Pratyusha resigned from the BJD and joined the BJP.
Three of the six RS members, Prasanna Acharya, Achyuta Samanta and Anubhav Mohanty, will contest for Lok Sabha seats, while Pratap Deb, Soumya Ranjan and Sarojini will contest in Assembly constituencies.
While Samanta and Soumya Ranjan’s Rajya Sabha term will expire in April 2024, the terms of Prasanna Acharya and Pratap Deb will be completed in July 2022 and Anubhav Mohanty’s term will be over in April 2020.
In all the three Lok Sabha and three Assembly seats where Rajya Sabha members are contesting, there will be triangular contests between the BJP, the BJD and the Congress.
Deb will contest from Aul Assembly seat which he had won earlier and will take on sitting Congress MLA Devendra Sharma and BJP nominee Dolagovinda Naik, who is also a former MLA. Sharma had defeated Deb in 2014 Assembly elections.
Soumya Ranjan contested the Khandpada Assembly seat in 2009 and 2014, but was defeated. While he fought the Khandapada Assembly seat in 2009 on a Congress ticket, he lost the 2014 elections as a candidate of Ama Odisha, a regional party floated by him.
The BJD’s nomination of Soumya Ranjan from Khandapada has not gone down well with the supporters of sitting BJD MLA Anubhav Patnaik.
Prasanna Acharya will face BJP Secretary Suresh Pujari and Pradip Kumar Devta of the Congress in Bargarh Lok Sabha seat.
Anubhav Mohanty is likely to face a tough fight with former BJD Lok Sabha Member Baijayant Panda who resigned from the party after he was expelled for anti-party activities and later joined the BJP.
The Congress has fielded Dharanidhar Naik, a senior advocate of the Odisha High Court, from the Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency.
In Kandhamal, Samanta will have to face former MP Mahameghabahana Aira Kharvela Swain of the BJP and Manoj Kumar Acharya of the Congress.
Political observers feel that Naveen wants to cool down the growing dissension among party leaders by assuring some of them Rajya Sabha seats, after denying them tickets for the general elections.
Naveen had already announced that sitting Bhubaneswar MP Prasana Kumar Patsani, who had won the Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat five times continuously, will be sent to Rajya Sabha.
Patsani was denied the BJD ticket this time, and was replaced by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Pattnaik, who is heading the controversial Biju Yuva Vahini, a state government sponsored scheme to promote social values, community service and leadership among youths.