The release of audiotapes alleging horsetrading in last year’s Rajya Sabha elections has raised a furore in Orissa engulfing the state’s three principal political parties — the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Congress has suspended a legislator and promised action against another, while chief minister Naveen Patnaik said he would look into allegations against his own partymen.
Kanak TV, a local Oriya channel, released audiotapes on June 8 showing that Congress legislator Shivaji Majhi received money to abstain from voting against BJD candidates in the June 2010 elections.
The tapes also showed that two BJD state ministers, Pushpendra Singh Deo and Atanu Sabyasachi, negotiated with Majhi for abstaining.
Another channel, ETV, released audiotapes on June 13 alleging that senior BJP leader Jaynarayan Mishra negotiated to vote in favour of independent candidate Tararanjan Pattnaik in lieu of R60 lakh, to be paid to another party legislator, Hitesh Bagarti.
Deo and Sabyasachi said the tapes were doctored, while chief minister Naveen Patnaik said he would look into the matter.
Two Congress legislators, Majhi and Gregory Minz, had abstained from voting in the elections, while BJP’s Bhimsen Choudhury had also abstained.
This allowed the BJD’s Pyarimohan Mohapatra, Sashi Bhusan Behera and Baisnab Parida to win all three Rajya Sabha seats for which elections were held.
While the BJP had suspended Choudhury immediately after the elections, the Congress had taken no action against its abstaining legislators.
On Tuesday, the Congress suspended Majhi for abstaining.
“There was sufficient evidence against Shivaji Majhi. Action will also be taken against the other legislator,” state Congress spokesperson Arya Kumar Gyanendra said.
But the BJP stood by Mishra, a former minister.
“Five out of our six MLAs voted as per party wishes. The one who refrained from voting (Choudhury) was suspended from the party. So where is the question of horse-trading by the BJP,” state BJP’s president Jual Oram.
He said the tape with allegations against the BJP leaders was “organised” by the ruling party to divert attention from the expose against its ministers.