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Odisha BJP hunts for boss

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 24: The BJP state unit is yet to find a successor to its outgoing chief Jual Oram.

The issue, tricky as it were, remains unresolved even after the recent Delhi visit of a sizeable group, led by some known Oram-baiters.

Sources said the Delhi trip of the faction leaders failed to break the deadlock because the issue of elections has become mired in a controversy over bogus membership and the pendency of elections in 15 out of the party’s 37 organisational districts in the state.

The BJP constitution enjoins that every active membership should be renewed after three years.

For this, the member concerned has to enrol at least 25 new members. Significantly, the state unit, which had more than 12,000 active members between 2003 to 2009, has around only 2,200 left now.

The number of primary members, too, is said to have come down significantly.

However, since the active members elect (block) representatives, who, in turn, choose the district representatives, thus, finally resulting in the constitution of the state council which elects the state president, attempts have allegedly been made to manipulate the active membership by inflating the numbers.

“A faction within the party had sought to hijack the organisation’s polls by making the Delhi trip. But, they failed to convince the central leaders, who have their own doubts about the inflated number of active members,” said a party leader, adding that the election of the new BJP president in Odisha would be the first major challenge before Rajnath Singh.

The election of the state president has been controversial since the beginning. With each faction backing its own candidate, the number of aspirants for the top job has gone up to five.

While the Oram camp is still betting on hardliner Ashok Sahu, the RSS seems keen on either Basant Panda or Nayan Mohanty. However, with Rajnath at the helm again in Delhi, the names of K.V. Singhdeo and Samir Mohanty are also doing the rounds.

With controversy taking the centre stage, the election of the state unit president is likely to be deferred further notwithstanding the feverish campaign for it by a section of party leaders here.

Sources said the central leaders, who had earlier deputed to state national general secretary Narendra Singh Tomar and former MP and Odisha affairs in-charge Santosh Gangwar, may take some more time to make up their mind.

“They would first like the organisational procedure to be followed rigorously as allegations about fake membership are tarnishing the image of the party,” said a source.

The central leader also remains eager to evolve a consensus on the next state president as election might aggravate factionalism. “With Assembly elections due next year, the central leadership would try to avoid factional feuds at all costs,” said a source.