Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 26:
Notwithstanding its lack of numbers and the real fear of cross voting, which could derail its best laid plans, the Congress today made it clear that it will field a candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls for the fourth seat against renowned sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra backed by the ruling BJD for the seat.
“We will field a candidate for the fourth seat of Rajya Sabha. However, I would not reveal the name now. It will be a surprise for you when we file the nomination paper,” Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jayadev Jena told media persons here on Sunday.
Though several leaders have shown an interest in contesting the Rajya Sabha polls, the party has left the decision entirely on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who apparently has zeroed in on a candidate.
Party sources said the candidate who will contest with Mohapatra will be a ‘national figure’, believed to be IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal.
However, if the Congress does field a candidate, it would be tough for Mohapatra to win the election to the upper house since he does not have the support of the required number of MLAs. Besides, the BJP is yet to make its stand clear on the issue.
Congress has 27 MLAs of its own in the Assembly, besides the support of Talcher MLA Brajakishore Pradhan and Champua MLA Jitu Patnaik.
On the flip side, the party is not confident of getting the support of even all its own MLAs in the Rajya Sabha polls. The fear of cross voting is writ large in the backdrop of what happened during the last Rajya Sabha polls. Party MLAs Shivaji Majhi and Gregory Minz had abstained from the polls ensuring the victory of BJD candidate Baishnab Parida, when BJD’s chief strategist Pyarimohan Mohapatra was at the helm of affairs of the ruling party.
Its attempt to unseat Assembly Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat during the Assembly session held in April last year had also came a cropper with two of its MLAs remaining absent. Although the Congress managed to get the support of two Independent legislators – Jitu Patnaik and Braja Kishore Pradhan – two of its own legislators – Mamata Madhi and Nihar Ranjan Mahananda – remained absent during the voting.
Even though the BJD is all set to get three seats, it will throw its hat to get Mohapatra elected to prove that it can win ‘by hook or crook’, even without Pyarimohan.
The party has only 18 MLAs, who can give their first choice votes to the fourth candidate. It cannot reach the magic number even if it gets the support of BJP, which has seven MLAs including Independent lawmaker Pratap Sarangi. Besides, it has support of two MLAs, including one CPI MLA and Independent MLA.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the announcement of the names of the BJD candidates for the three seats it is set to win by party supremo Naveen Patnaik tomorrow. While Parliamentary Affairs minister Kalpataru Das appears near certain to be fielded for one of the three seats up for grabs, it is not clear who are the two to be named by Naveen.
Asked about his candidature, Das said; ‘I am a loyal party worker and would take whatever responsibility the party gives me.”