Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, May 29:
The race for the sole full-term Rajya Sabha seat in Odisha is getting hotter by the day, with several BJD heavyweights throwing their hats in the ring and vying with one another to present their claims before the party supremo.
The election for just one Rajya Sabha seat, which has fallen vacant after AU Singhdeo’s resignation, is scheduled to be held June 19. Around a dozen party leaders are interested to grab this ‘prized seat; because it is the only one which would guarantee the occupant a hassle free 6-year tenure.
Naveen has already ticked off a number of aspirants like the party general secretary Narendra Swain, N. Bhaskar Rao, Munna Khan and Subhash Singh from the list by naming them chiefs of various corporations.
Supporters of Naveen’s Doon schoolmate Anang Uday Singhdeo, who is being seen as the ‘sacrificial lamb’ , believe he is the true claimant for the seat, which he had won but had sacrificed it in the larger interest of the party.
Among the major aspirants are two senior leaders and former finance ministers – Prafulla Ghadai and Prasanna Acharya .
Ghadai has queered the pitch for the rest by claiming the chief minister, who had not given him a ticket to fight the last polls had assured him of a Rajya Sabha seat. Many believe Acharya, who was made to change his old Assembly seat and lost the polls by a whisker from Bijepur, is a strong contender.
Besides, there are other seniors like former minister Kalandi Behera, Arabind Dhali, Surendra Nath Nayak, former SCW chairperson Jyoti Panigrahi and many more who are in the race. OCA secretary Asirbad Behera, who went out of his way to spend his time, money and energy to campaign for the BJD and even issued newspaper ads to appeal to the voters, is also hoping Naveen will reciprocate. He has reasons to eye the seat because his colleague in the OCA Ranjib Biswal has already made it to the Upper House.
The ‘turncoat’ and former Leader of Opposition Bhupindar Singh is also said to be in the race and may be expecting rewards for making a laughing stock out of his old party, the Congress days before the polls.
While there are any number of aspirants, one name keeps bothering them all- that of Odia film star Anubhav Mohanty, who could pip all of them at the post. For, it was none other than the BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, who in March this year, while announcing that AU Singhdeo will resign from the Rajya Sabha had said “Anubhav Mohanty will go to Rajya Sabha. ‘
Party insiders say Naveen may have made the announcement to ensure Anubhav, who was not allotted a party ticket for either the Assembly or Lok Sabha polls, does not desert the BJD poll campaign. Secondly, they argue, Naveen never specified when exactly Anubhav would be sent to the Rajya Sabha
After a landslide victory Naveen does not really have to worry too much about any backlash or revolt even if he chooses to ignore all the claimants within his party and choose the one from the tinsel world. But he has to weigh and balance his option before deciding on the party nominee because it would have a bearing on his public image.
For all you know, someone else, who is not at all in the reckoning as of now, could make a wildcard entry from nowhere at the very last minute.
However, many in the party feel Anubhav Mohanty would be Naveen’s final choice because it will help him steer clear of bad blood within the party for the time being, while allowing him to use the lure of the soon-to-be-vacant seats to keep the aspirants’ dreams alive.