Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Mar 9:
Even though the opposition Congress and BJP have announced their first and second phase candidates respectively for the ensuing elections in the state, the BJD seems to be in a fix over the finalization of candidates in view of the large number of aspirants within the party, entrants from the film world as well as imported netas from other parties.
With too many high-profile aspirants vying for party tickets, the party supremo Naveen Patnaik finds himself in a catch-22 situation while dealing with game of ticket distribution,especially because the top priority for him is the winnability of the candidates.
The biggest fear that haunts the party’s big boss today is the rebel factor, admitted a senior party leader who was part of today’s long meeting at Naveen Niwas to discuss party tickets.
No wonder, Naveen Patnaik has been holding meetings after meetings with senior leaders without reaching any definite conclusions.
Insiders say, the party is yet to zero in on the ‘right’ candidates to field in the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies.
“We are in the process of finalizing the candidates for the polls. Since there are many aspirants in every constituency, it would take some time. However, the final decision will be taken by party President,” said Pramila Mallick, president of BJD’s women’s wing.
Apart from dealing with the sitting MLAs and MPs, who are lobbying hard to retain their tickets, Naveen Patnaik wants to strike the right balance between the veterans and the freshers. He also has to take into account the aspirations of a large number of youth leaders of the party who have been waiting in the sidelines for years.
“I have been working for the party with dedication and I also happen to be an active member of BJD’s youth wing. I feel the youth should be given preference over others while distributing tickets,” said Bijay Nayak, general secretary of the BYJD.
Former BJD student wing president Ranjit Mohapatra has also expressed his interest to contest from Ekamra seat of Bhubaneswar, presently held by Ashok Panda. Some of the aspirants have already put up their posters in the constituencies they intend to contest from.
Naveen may also be toying with the idea of fielding some of the popular film actors who have joined the party in view of their polpularity but je knows, perhaps better than others that elecyions are a different ballgame.
Some party leaders say, with the Congress fielding cine stars Bijay Mohanty and Aparajita Mohanty from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack Lok Sabha constituencies respectively, Naveen may be tempted to field a couple of stars as well. Last time it was Sidhant Mohapatra and he won handsomely from Brahmapur. They believe Anubhav Mohanty and Mihir Das are the frontrunners in the list of actor aspirants.
According to party sources, the BJD leadership is also in two minds over whether or not to offer tickets to the MLAs who were loyalists of Pyarimohan Mohapatra, particularly those who were directly involved in the much-publicised May 29 coup attempt.
At least three (former) ministers and two MLAs were ‘part’ of Pyarimohan’s ‘core team’ and allegedly took an active part in the bid to dethrone Naveen.
As is well-known, Sarada Prasad Nayak, Sanjib Sahu and Anjali Behera were dropped from the ministry and MLAs Pravat Biswal and Bibhuti Balabantaray, were placed under suspension for their suspected involvement in the so-called coup attempt.
However, with all these leaders falling back in line soon enough and swearing their loyalty, Naveen may consider retaining them in his list, sources said, adding, their fate would depend on how well or how badly they have performed in the urban body polls. Apart from this, Naveen reportedly is in possession of ‘intelligence inputs’ from trusted police officials about the popularity rating of incumbent MLAs. That could also decide whether some MLAs will be on board or thrown out of contention.
“ For all you know Naveen Babu may surprise everybody with his final list because that has been his brand of politics all through,” said a senior party leader under conditions of anonymity.