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Race begins for RS seats

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 13: Race for the four Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in the state is likely to hot up with the Election Commission declaring February 7 as the date for biennial elections to the Upper House of parliament.

The four Rajya Sabha MPs from the state whose terms are drawing to an end in April are Ramachandra Khuntia of Congress, Mangla Kissan and Renubala Pradhan from BJD and Balbir Punj of the BJP.

Odisha has 10 members in the Upper House. Of the six remaining members, Shashi Bhushan Behera, Dilip Tirkey, Baishnab Parida and Rabi Mohapatra are of the BJD. While Odisha Jan Morcha chief, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, who was elected to the Upper House on a BJD ticket, now enjoys the status of an unattached member, eminent Gandhian A.V. Swamy is an Independent member of Rajya Sabha backed by BJD.

With 30 first preference votes required for the election of a candidate to the Rajya Sabha from the state, the ruling BJD, with 108 seats in the 147-strong Assembly, should have little difficulty winning three of the four seats falling vacant.

The real bone of contention will be the fourth seat for which the ruling party will have only 18 first preference votes left. It cannot hope to make it even with the support of the lone CPI MLA, who happens to be its ally. There are five Independent members in the Assembly, but of them only one, Khurda MLA, Rajendra Sahu supports the BJD.

While the BJP with six seats and the support of Nilgiri’s Independent MLA, Pratap Sarangi remains a no hoper, even the Congress with its 27 legislators cannot hope for an outright win. The main Opposition party, however, stands a much better chance given the fact that Talcher’s independent MLA, Braja Pradhan happens to be its supporter and with a little political manouevring it can also pull Samata Kranti Dal leader and Birmitrapur legislator, George Tirkey to its side.

If the party succeeds in persuading Champua’s Independent MLA, Jitu Patnaik, a shrewd politician, to vote for its candidate, it can bag the fourth Rajya Sabha seat. That, however, is a big if.

Sources said much would depend upon the choice of right kind of candidate by the main Opposition party. Depending upon the candidate’s profile even the BJP, despite its ideological differences with the Congress, may feel obliged to extend its support. The other major factor that may force BJP’s hand is that like the Congress it, too, would be keen to ensure that the fourth seat does not fall in BJD’s kitty.