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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Odisha Rajya Sabha polls: BJD wins 3, Congress 1 amid horse-trading speculations

Priya Ranjan Sahu , Hindustan Times  Bhubaneshwar, February 07, 2014
First Published: 23:08 IST(7/2/2014) | Last Updated: 23:09 IST(7/2/2014)

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Friday won three Rajya Sabha seats from Odisha, while opposition Congress won one in a nail-biting finish amid high drama and speculation of large-scale horse-trading.

Odisha panchayati raj minister Kalpataru Das, textile, handloom and handicraft minister Sarojini Hembrum and senior BJD leader AU Singh Deo were elected unopposed on the ruling party’s won strength. But BJD backed Independent candidate, Padma Vibhusan awardee sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, lost the election to Congress’s candidate, Indian Premier League chairman Ranjib Biswal.

Mohapatra’s loss was a setback to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who had handpicked him as the fourth candidate. “I am happy that three BJD candidates have won. It is very sad that the Independent (candidate) lost it,” Patnaik said after the announcement of the results.

On the other hand, Biswal said that he won despite horse-trading by the ruling party. “Congress is united and we gave a befitting reply to BJD and scuttled its plan to poach on our MLAs,” Biswal said.

The current state assembly has 107 BJD MLAs as against, the Congress’ 27, BJP’s six and Communist Party of India (CPI)’s one. There are six Independents in the house.

Elections were being held to fill up the four Rajya Sabha seats as the terms of Mangala Kissan and Renubala Pradhan from BJD, Ramachandra Khuntia of Congress and Balbir Punj of BJP was ening on April 2.

The state witnessed high drama since the announcement of the elections. BJD had enough votes – 30 each - to sail through its first three candidates. Patnaik pushed Mohapatra to the field as the fourth candidate with only 18 votes to spare and appealed other parties to vote for the “eminent artiste”.

With the backing of 27 Congress MLAs and three Independents, Biswal’s win was almost certain. However, his chances looked gloomy as two of the Independents – one of them being his proposer – switched side and announced to support Mohapatra in the presence of the chief minister on Wednesday evening. 

The BJP, which did not have a stake in the election, too asked its six MLAs at the last moment to vote for Mohapatra almost sealing Biswal’s chances.

But there were twists and turns during the voting that in Biswal’s favour. One BJP MLA voted for Biswal while another abstained for voting.

BJD’s first three candidates got more than required 30 votes, thereby making a shortage of votes for the fourth candidate Mohapatra. Another BJD MLA’s vote became invalid.

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