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Opting out of poll race is face saver for losers in race for BJD tickets !

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Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Mar 11:

At a time when political leaders are literally willing to give away their hand for a party ticket, preferably of the BJD variety, it is remarkable how some leaders are opting out of the electoral race.

First, it was Jayaram Pangi, who discovered in the morning that his illness was of such a serious nature that it would not allow him to take the rigours of electioneering under the hot sun of March and April.

Bhupinder with former OJM leader Sarat Mishra at BJD office
Bhupinder with former OJM leader Sarat Mishra at BJD office

“I have informed the BJD supremo about my wish. As I have undergone a surgery at AIIMS, it will not be possible for me to participate in the polls,” Pangi told reporters outside the residence of Chief Minister on Tuesday.

Cynics, however, take Pangi’s statement with a bagful of salt. In a state where seriously sick politicians like Basudev Majhi of Congress and Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik of the BJD have been wheeled into the Assembly to vote for their party candidates in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, there are not many takers for Pangi’s sudden discovery of the extent of his sickness.

“It is, in all probability, the other way round. It must have been Naveen Patnaik who has advised him against taking the strain of campaigning since he has already decided not to re-nominate him from Koraput. Alternatively, Pangi must have got wind of the axe and come up with this face saving formula,” said a BJD worker from Koraput who had come to seek the party ticket for the Koraput Assembly seat.

Bhupinder, the former Leader of Opposition in the Assembly who joined the BJD recently, did not even have a fig leaf of ‘illness’ like his new party colleague (though he too was supposedly in hospital for five days recently because of an alarming rise in the WBC count).

Maybe that is the reason he did not bother giving a reason for his decision not to contest the election. All that he said was he was not keen on contesting elections and would rather ‘prefer’ campaigning for party candidates. This is hard to take at face value, coming as it does from a man who is believed to have crossed swords with his former party bosses for the Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat before deserting the party and joining the BJD.

Jayaram Pangi
Jayaram Pangi

In any case, his credibility is rather low at the moment because barely four days before actually joining the ruling party, he had emerged out of his ‘illness’ to claim that he had no intention of quitting the party and joining the BJD. He had, in fact, gone hammer and tongs at the media for floating such stories. So the people at large can perhaps be forgiven for being a little sceptical about his sudden disenchantment with electoral politics.

Perhaps realising the winds of change in the BJD, OJM leader Sarat Mishra, who joined the ruling party today, made it clear that his entry was entirely ‘unconditional’ before somebody accused him of switching camps for the BJD ticket.

Indications are that several more party leaders could opt out of the electoral race in the next two days – with or without a reason. Party insiders say the new phenomenon is supremo Naveen Patnaik’s way of giving a face saving formula to those who lose out on the race for BJD tickets.