Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 24:
BJD suprmeo Naveen Patnaik’s masterstroke to back eminent sculptor Padma Bhushan Raghunath Mohapatra for the fourth Rajya Sabha seat has left the state Congress in a Catch-22 situation. It can oppose Mohapatra’s candidature only at its own peril.
PCC president Jayadev Jena gave enough indication of the party’s dilemma when he said; “A political party has proposed the name of Mohapatra and we have great respect for him. However, the party high command is yet to decide who will be our candidate for the fourth seat.”
Any decision to field a candidate against Mohapatra, who has won international acclaim for his work, is bound to send out the wrong signal to the people at large. Apart from a six-feet statue of Sun God at the Parliament, the master craftsman has also built black granite lotus at late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s memorial in New Delhi.
But a section in the party is not in favour of supporting Mohapatra since it believes the party has a real winning possibility in the polls and could muster the required number of 30 MLAs. Among ghe reasons cited by this section is the fact that nominated as he is by the ruling BJD, he may not vote in favour of various crucial Bills that the UPA government proposes to pass in the next session of the parliament. The Congress, which is in a minority in the upper house, will need a Congress MP to replace Ramachandra Khuntia, it points out.
Congress has 27 MLAs of its won 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, forget getting the support of others. 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. 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. The move of the party was rejected as it required the support of at least 28 members for passing such a resolution in the House. 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. In this backdrop, the party is in real danger of ending up with egg on its face if its move to filed a candidate – in all likelihood IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal – for the fourth seat backfires.
However, the election is not exactly going to be a cake walk for Mohapatra as the BJD, which has backed him, has only 18 MLAs, who can give their first choice votes to the fourth candidate. The party cannot reach the magic number even if it gets the support of BJP, which has seven MLAs including Independent lawmaker Pratap Sarangi. The BJP is yet to make its stand clear even though the Padma Bhusan awardee has already requested BJP president KV Singhdeo for support.
“Raghunath Mohapatra is a renowned person. However, the party has not decided on who will be the independent candidate,” said senior BJP leader Biswabhuan Harichandan.