Naveen inducts two Odisha media barons into BJD, picks both as Rajya Sabha candidates

The chief minister announced the candidatures of Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, editor of Odia daily Sambad, and Achyuta Samanta, founder of the Kalinga Institue of Industrial Technology and owner of Kalinga TV, hours after welcoming them to the Biju Janata Dal.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2018 20:13 IST
Debabrata Mohanty, Bhubaneswar
BJD new members,Odisha media barons join BJD,Soumya Ranjan Patnaik
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik with new party member Soumya Ranjan Patnaik who is also the head of the Eastern Media Limited, in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.(PTI Photo)

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik inducted the owners of two regional media houses into his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on Wednesday and picked both as party candidates for the Rajya Sabha elections on March 23.

The chief minister announced the candidatures of Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, editor of Odia daily Sambad, and Achyuta Samanta, founder of the Kalinga Institue of Industrial Technology and owner of Kalinga TV, hours after welcoming them to the BJD.

The two media owners joined the BJD less than two months after the CM suspended party MP Baijayant Panda for alleged anti-party activities. Panda has described the allegations as false and baseless. Panda’s wife owns Odisha TV (OTV), one of the most widely watched channels in the state.

The CM chose party MLA Prashant Nanda, a former Odia cine star, as the party’s other candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls. Incidentally, the CM had dropped Nanda as higher education minister in 2001 amid allegations of corruption.

The CM described Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, 66, and Samant, 54, as “tremendous assets” to the BJD, which is facing an increasingly assertive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the build-up to the Lok Sabha and assembly elections that would be held simultaneously in Odisha.

Soumya Ranjan Patnaik is the son-in-law of three-time Odisha chief minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik and was in Congress till 2013, when the party expelled him. His elder brother, Niranjan Patnaik, is a former state Congress president. His media operations include a TV channel and an FM radio station. He also has six jatra troupes.

Asked if his move to the BJD was with an eye on a Rajya Sabha berth, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said, “I have not set any terms and conditions. I will continue my work for resolving issues of duped chit fund investors, and farmers of the state.”

Soumya Ranjan Patnaik has had a chequered political journey. He contested the Bhubaneswar assembly election in 1995 on a BJP ticket against the CM’s father, Biju Patnaik. He lost and soon quit the BJP to join the Congress. In 1996, he fought the Lok Sabha poll from Bhubaneswar on a Congress ticket and won. In the 1998 Lok Sabha election, he lost from Bhubaneswar, this time fighting on a BJP ticket. He joined Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party in 1999, but was back in the Congress. Since 1998, he has lost every election, including the 2014 assembly election from Khandapara in Nayagarh district.

On the other hand, this is Samanta’s maiden foray into politics. He said the CM’s “pro-people efforts” and “social commitment” were his reasons for joining the BJD. “In the last 20 years that I have seen him (Naveen Patnaik), I have been inspired by his honesty.”

Samanta is also the founder of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, known as the biggest tribal university in India.

Rajya Sabha elections are due for three seats in Odisha as the tenure of three members, BJD’s AU Singh Deo and Dilip Tirkey, and BJD-supported Independent AV Swami, is coming to an end in the first week of April.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 20:10 IST