Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, Nov 22:
With the Election Commission of India (ECI) announcing to issue notification on November 26 for holding bye-election to the lone Rajya Sabha seat from the state that has fallen vacant after the demise of senior BJD leader Kalpataru Das on July 25, the race among the hopefuls in the BJD is heating up.
While about 60 leaders from the BJD are in the race to get nominated by the party as the candidate for the lone vacant Upper House seat from the state, more than half a dozen are from undivided Cuttack district alone.
Leading the race among them in the district is none other than the former speaker of Odisha Assembly and senior BJD leader Sarat Kar.
Sarat who had quit the party and has rejoined the party during the last general elections in 2014 is holding no post and is learnt to be eager to fill the void left by Kalpataru.
Sarat who was elected from Mahanga as a MLA in 1971 is known to be a close associate of Biju Patnaik. Apart from being thrice elected from this seat he was an important minister in the cabinets of both Biswanath Das and Biju Patnaik.
Further, he was the speaker of the Odisha Assembly during 2000-2004 tenure of Naveen Patnaik as the Chief Minister. Moreover, in 1977 he had won elections from the Cuttack Lok Sabha seat on a Janata Dal ticket.
Though Sarat is known as an excellent orator and a sharp politician, he had quit the party for some reasons for a brief period and has returned to the party fold last year. Therefore, he is hopeful of being nominated as the party candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat.
Apart from Sarat, another senior leader of the BJD from Cuttack city Hussain Rabi Gandhi is also among the hopefuls who are eyeing to be nominated as the party candidate for the Rajya Sabha vacancy. Hussain was the general secretary of the party from its formation till 2005. Known as a leader from the minority community Hussain was the chairman of the state owned Odisha Leather Corporation and president of Odisha Sahitya Akademi. He had narrowly missed out from getting the BJD ticket to contest from Korei Assembly seat during elections last year. So he is learnt to be trying hard to become the BJD candidate for the Upper House seat.
Others in the race for being nominated as the party candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat are former Kendrapara MLA Sipra Mallick, chairperson of State Commission for Persons with Disabilities Minati Behera, senior leader Narendra Kumar Swain, former district president of BJD Dharmananda Behera, some youth leaders and artists.
However, all are tight lipped and no one is prepared to speak to the media in the matter though intense lobbying has begun.