Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 15 :
While filing of nominations for the two part-time Rajya Sabha posts in Odisha begins tomorrow (June 16), most of the leaders in the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD)- barring of course the 20-odd aspirants – appear largely uninterested in any discussion over the likely choices of the party supremo Naveen Patnaik.
The election, if necessary, will be held on July 3. But by all accounts, voting is unlikely in a situation where the the ruling party owns 117 of the 147 seats in the Assembly.
“It’s entirely up to Naveen Patnaik. He is free to choose from among A,B,C, or P,Q, R or even X,Y,Z. After all, he is the big boss ,” a senior leader of the party said with a tinge of sarcasm when asked to guess who would fill the twovacant seats in the Upper House.
Another senior leader, who refused point-blank to speculate on the likely nominees, however, came up with another cryptic remark : “ I am just waiting for the final evaluation and the mark sheets. Let’s see who gets 33% and who gets 66%.”
The percentage figures obviously refer to the tenure of the two vacant seats. While one is valid for just two years, the other has a four-year tenure. While the term of the seat vacated by Sashi Bhushan Behera would expire in 2016, Rabinarayan Mohapatra’s seat is valid for the next four years – until 2018.
Both Behera and Mohapatra are now MLAs in the 15th Odisha Assembly.
Although there are no public outbursts, the nomination of film actor Anubhav Mohanty for the full-time Rajya Sabha seat has peeved not only the leaders but the party and rank and file as well.
Sources in the party said, many leaders are unhappy with the decision because they feel even if Naveen wanted to keep his promise, made in public, to send the actor to the Rajya Sabha he could have offered him Sashi Bhushan Behera’s seat which has only a two-year tenure and given the full-term seat to a party stalwart.
Naveen loyalists argue that the film actor worked really hard for the party in the poll campaign and needed to be rewarded. They also say sending film actors to the Parliament has already become a standard practice with most political parties in the country.
However, the detractors say the actor worked ‘really hard’ because he was given a ‘really hard’ promise of a Rajya Sabha ticket before the campaign started. They say many other senior Ollywood actors too worked hard for the party without any incentives or promises but their contributions were largely ignored by the bosses.
“Film stars are a useful tool in vote campaigns and it is their attraction value that every party wants to cash in on. Sidhant Mohapatra is now a fading star. The party would normally look for a replacement who can serve the party until at least the next general elections. The 6-year Rajya Sabha seat will ensure Anubhav will campaign for BJD also in 2019,” a Naveen loyalist explained the rationale behind offering the full-term seat to the actor.
A former BJD MLA said, anybody can be nominated to the Rajya Sabha. ” You asked me why Anubhav ? My question is why was Rabinaryan Mohapatra nominated two years ago ? Had you ever heard of him before his name was announced by Naveen Babu ?”- he quipped.
Among the so-called frontrunners for the 33% and 66% seats are former Finance ministers Prafulla Ghadai and Prasanna Acharya. While the former was asked to stay out of the electoral fray reportedly against the promise of a Rajya Sabha ticket, the latter lost by a whisker from the Bijepur seat in Bargarh seat.
AU Singhdeo, who was asked to give up his Rajya Sabha seat and contest the Bolangir seat, much against his wishes, has turned out to be the biggest loser in the BJD. However, he has earned a great deal of goodwill and sympathy within the party and many are hoping against hopes that he would be one of the two nominees.
The list of aspirants is virtually unending. But among those who feature in the speculations in the media are the turncoat Congress leader Bhupinder Singh, who made a significant contribution to the slaughter of his former party in the last elections , sports organizer and Yadav leader Asirbad Behera, celebrated sculptor Padma Vibhushan Raghunath Mohapatra, who was ‘ditched’ by BJD after being projected as its ‘fourth candidate’ and Arabindo Dhali, who has pleased Naveen for his role in turning the Bengali voters in Mahakalpara away from the ‘dreaded’ BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra.
Add to that a couple of retired bureaucrats, who are pulling the right strings.
And, if sources serve us right, there are at least five other ‘non-political’ persons who are waiting in the wings for a wild card entry.
So will it be A, B or P,Q or X, Z ?
One has to wait to know, and that’s not going to be long wait at all.