Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 31:
With the BJP playing hardball, the race for the fourth Rajya Sabha seat is getting curiouser by the hour.
Since neither of the two candidates in fray – renowned sculptor and BJD backed candidate Padma Bibhushan Raghunath Mohapatra and IPL Chairman and former MP Ranjib Biswal – has the numbers, political observers are of the view that the polls on February 7 could well turn out to be a repeat of the 2010 elections when alleged horse trading saw the BJD’s Baishnab Parida sail through despite the lack of numbers.
Snubbed by BJD motor mouth and Health minister Damodar Rout yesterday, Mohapatra is now banking on the blessings of Lord Jagannath to see him through.
“It is his (Mohapatra’s) job to muster the required numbers. We have said we will support him but the task of garnering support from others is entirely his responsibility,” Dr Rout said on Thursday in what is being seen as an indication that the ruling party has washed its hands off the man who hopes to build a replica of the world famous Sun Temple in Konark. “We would be 100% happy if he makes it,but wouldn’t have any reasons to feel sad if he loses,” he added for good measure.
The Health minister’s comment, which could not have come without sanction from the party supremo, is a clear indication that while the BJD has announced its support for Mohapatra, it would not go ‘the whole hog’ for him like it did in the case of Parida last time. “After all, Baishnab Parida was a party man, which Mohapatra is not,” pointed out a BJD leader.
Mohapatra, thus, has to muster more than the ‘blessings’ of Lord Jagannath if he wants to win. Even if the BJP, which has so far chosen to keep its cards close to its chest, does ultimately support him, he would still need the support of five more MLAs to win. That means he would be banking on the same group of MLAs that the Congress would be fishing for.
The sculptor’s task is made tougher by the fact that a powerful section within the saffron party is strongly opposed to lending support to him on the ground that he is essentially a BJD candidate.
“Padma Bibhusan Raghunath Mohapatra, for all practical purposes, is the fourth candidate staged by the BJD. Voting for Mohapatra by the BJP legislators would amount to extending support to a BJD candidate, so far as the public perception goes,” said senior BJP leader Ashok Sahu.
“Since voting for the Congress candidate by the BJP does not arise, the best way open for the BJP legislators is to abstain from voting in the impending Rajya Sabha elections,” the party vice president said in a Facebook post.
While Mohapatra is faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, it is not exactly a cakewalk for Congress candidate Ranjib Biswal either. For one thing, ensuring that there is no repeat of 2010 when two of its MLAs – Shivaji Majhi and Gregory Minz – abstained, in itself is a tough task. Secondly, even if he does manage to ensure that all 27 Congress MLAs vote for him, he will still need the support of three more to win.
Even if Champua MLA Jitu Patnaik and Talcher MLA Braja Kishore Pradhan do lend their support to him as expected, Biswal would need the backing of at least one more MLA, which can only come from one of the independents.
In the circumstances, observers believe that ‘horse trading’, a term that has become synonymous with elections to the upper house, would come into play.