Independents add fizz to usually staid Rajya Sabha elections

  • Saubhadra Chatterji
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2016 10:03 IST

NEW DELHI: Predictable most of the time and a routine affair that hardly generates much political heat, the Rajya Sabha polls have come alive, thanks to several independent candidates entering the fray.

Though the spotlight is on Priti Mahapatra, the glamorous wife of a prominent businessman from Odisha, several other independent candidates from Haryana to Madhya Pradesh have added equal fizz to the June 11 elections, upsetting the calculations of both the ruling and opposition parties.

Priti Mahapatra, wife of businessman Harihara Mahapatra, filed nominations on Tuesday from Uttar Pradesh, potentially jeopardising the established arithmetic of biennial polls in the state. Seen as an outsider in UP politics, Mahapatra claimed she enjoyed the support of the BJP and some other parties of the state.

Her entry has forced an election as she is the 12th candidate for 11 seats. The Congress, according to analysts, could suffer if Priti can mop up votes across party lines.

In Haryana, two seats have fallen vacant and three prominent candidates have filed their nominations.

Union minister Birender Singh is seen as the frontrunner for one seat while media baron Subhas Chandra and lawyer RK Anand will fight for the second berth. Chandra, head of the Zee TV empire, may enjoy tremendous clout in political circles, especially in the ruling establishment, but Anand is no lightweight himself. He has been in the Rajya Sabha as a Congress MP before switching over to the INLD.

In a major twist in Madhya Pradesh, BJP state general secretary Vinod Gotia filed his nomination as an independent candidate on Tuesday. Gotia is among five candidate in the fray for three seats.

The BJP had already fielded Anil Madhav Dave and MJ Akbar in the state while the Congress nominee is lawyer Vivek Tankha. Shashi Stela from the Bharatiya Gareeb Party, who also filed her nomination papers on Tuesday, is likely to fall out of the race as there was no proposer for her candidature. Sources said this would lead to rejection of her papers.

Gotia’s entry could put the Congress’ calculations into disarray, sources said.

The last date for withdrawal of nomination papers is June 3.

Bihar is the only state that will not see any last-minute entries and the fate of candidates there is almost sealed. The RJD has given a ticket to party chief Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter Misa Bharti and eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani. The BJP has fielded former state president Gopal Narayan Singh for the lone seat being contested by the saffron outfit.

For the Congress, the polls in Bihar will see the return of Kapil Sibal to the Rajya Sabha. Apart from P Chidambaram — contesting from Maharashtra — and Tankha, Sibal will be the third legal luminary to come to the Rajya Sabha at a time when the BJP is gaining strength in the upper House.

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