Bhubaneswar, Dec 30:
With four Rajya Sabha members from Odisha retiring on April 2 next year on completion of their terms, major political parties have begun the exercise to optimize their positions in the house of elders.
The current fourteenth Odisha Assembly will elect four members to the Rajya Sabha. Elections to the four seats falling vacant in April next year will be held before the 2014 general elections, either in the third or last week of March.
The Election Commission has already begun the process for the purpose as per statutory procedures. The Commission has written to the Assembly secretariat asking it to send a list of names for appointment of returning and presiding officers. This apart, the Commission has also directed the authorities to start preparations for the elections, said official sources.
The four Rajya Sabha MPs from the state, whose terms will end on April 2, are Ramachandra Khuntia of Congress, Mangla Kissan and Renubala Pradhan from BJD and Balbir Punj of the BJP.
Political analysts are of the opinion that given the respective strength of political parties in the current Assembly, the BJD is certain to win three out of the four seats up for grabs.
The fight is essentially for the fourth seat, for which the Congress, the major opposition party, does not have the required numbers. Hard-nosed bargaining and horse trading cannot be ruled out, say analysts.
In the current Assembly, the BJD has 108 members and the Congress 27, the BJP six, the CPI one while there are seven independent members. As per the arithmetic, a candidate requires the first choice vote of 30 legislators or in other words the support of 30 MLAs to win.
Since the BJD has 108 members in the Assembly, it can easily send three members to the house of elders by exercising their first choice vote without any hassles. However, for the fourth seat, the party has 18 first choice votes and rest second choice votes, making it difficult for the party to secure it.
The Congress, which has 27 members in the Assembly, needs to secure the support of three more members to win the fourth seat. The party would obviously eye the support of independents to win this seat, said political analysts.
With many Congress leaders reportedly waiting to cross over to the BJD ahead of the forthcoming elections, there is no guarantee that the Congress would win the seat, political circles say.
In the event, horse trading is inevitable in the forthcoming elections to the four Rajya Sabha seats.
Observers are curious to see which way BJD-BJP relations progress in the days to come: whether the two estranged partners are going to drift further away from each other or going to come together ahead of the 2014 general elections.