In what can be an embarrassment for the Congress, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janta Dal (BJD) is likely to forge an alliance with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress and JMM run a coalition government in neighbouring Jharkhand.
Talks between the BJD and the JMM are in an advanced stage following the declaration of intent last week.
What’s more, Patnaik's party is also set to give tickets to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rebels and their kin. This will further queer the pitch for the saffron party.
Odisha will see a triangular contest between the BJD, Congress and the BJP. Patnaik’s rivals have taken a battering in the state over the years.
Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the BJD won 14 in 2009. The party’s clout is equally strong in the assembly, where it has 108 of the 147 seats.
Under the pact with the JMM, the BJD may give as many as four seats to the JMM for the Odisha assembly elections, which will be held along with the Lok Sabha polls.
Sudam Marandi, the JMM Odisha unit chief, is in talks with Patnaik's key aides. The tie-up see the JMM campaign for BJD candidates in areas bordering Jharkhand.
The first list of BJD candidates is likely to come out by the end of this week and the party may field a former BJP state chief Bimbadhar Kuanr, who joined BJD on Monday, from Bargarh in western Odisha.
It may also give ticket to son of former three-time BJP MP Bikram Keshari Deo from Kalahandi in southwest Odisha.
While most of the BJD's sitting MPs are likely to get tickets, two — Yashbant Narayan Singh Laguri of iron ore-rich Keonjhar and Jayaram Pangi of bauxite-rich Koraput — are likely to be dropped.
The BJD is all set to field its star Rajya Sabha member, former Indian hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, from a tribal constituency. Tirkey hails from the hockey-loving Sundargarh district in northwest Odisha.
Former Odisha chief secretary Bijay Patnaik, a bureaucrat trusted by the CM’s father, late Biju Patnaik, is also set for a high-profile entry into politics.
Sources privy to the internal workings of the BJD said the retired bureaucrat, now chairman of the Odisha staff selection commission, would get a Lok Sabha ticket.