BJD may corner all Odisha RS seats after Congress says it won’t vote
The Biju Janata Dal is all set to bag all the four Rajya Sabha seats going to polls on March 26 after the Congress on Sunday announced its MLAs wouldn’t vote in the elections.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee chief Niranjan Patnaik said his party will neither support the BJD nor the BJP candidates.
“As we have no Rajya Sabha candidate, our MLAs don’t need to vote,” said Patnaik. Congress has 9 MLAs in the Odisha Assembly.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced four party candidates on Saturday including a trade union leader, a Muslim leader and an OBC woman for all the RS seats from the State going to polls this month.
Mamata Mahanta, Munna Khan, trade union leader Subash Singh and technocrat Sujeet Kumar were named BJD candidates.
With the Congress deciding to abstain, the number of valid votes in the 147-member Assembly comes down to 138 and BJD, with its 113 MLAs would require 28 votes each to see its four candidates through, said an expert. The BJP has 23 MLAs and it is yet to announce a candidate. Leader of opposition and BJP leader Pradipta Naik said the party’s central parliamentary board would take a final decision in this regard.
“If BJP manages to split the Congress Legislature party, then they can pose a threat to BJD’s 4th candidate,” said political analyst Rabi Das.
Das said BJD’s quick announcement of candidates for all the 4 seats within days of the election notification was Patnaik’s message to the BJP to not take it for granted.
In 2019, BJP nominated bureaucrat-turned-entrepreneur Ashwini Vaishnaw had won with backing from the BJD.
“Last year, BJD was all set to nominate its own candidate for the 3rd seat when BJP central leadership forced Patnaik to support a BJP candidate. By announcing its own candidates, the BJD boss also wants to erase the impression, that he is supporting the BJP, created after the party’s endorsement of the Citizenship Amendment Act,” Das said.
Another political analyst said Patnaik’s selection of candidates for the Rajya Sabha seats mirrored his anxieties of being seen as too close to the BJP. Political science professor Satya Prakash Dash of Sambalpur University said by nominating Munna Khan, nephew of late Congress leader, Patnaik was trying to assuage the fears of the Muslim community triggered by the BJD’s support to the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Parliament.
“Though Patnaik has stressed that Muslims in Odisha have nothing to fear from the CAA and that his party would never support NRC in the future, there have been continuous protests against the CAA by the minority community across the State,” said Dash.
Similarly, by nominating Mamata Mahanta, a woman leader from the Kudumi caste (an OBC group), Patnaik was trying to rebuild the party’s base in tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district where BJP bettered BJD in last year’s Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, he added.
In Odisha, the 25-lakh strong Kudumi community is mostly seen in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Sambalpur districts where they can impact the poll results. In Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar, the Kudumis have traditionally been BJP supporters.