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Candidate crunch hits BJP

Cuttack, Jan. 15: The BJP is not willing to concede, but dearth of candidates is having its effect on the process to make the right choice for the forthcoming municipal corporation polls.

The party’s selection committee headed by senior leader Manmohan Samal released the first list of candidates for 40 of the 59 wards on Tuesday night. Though the process to file nominations has begun on Monday, the party is still scouting for candidates to fight in the remaining 19 wards.

BJP sources said choosing candidates was a problem because majority of the activists lacked the enthusiasm to fight the polls. Besides, there were several wards from where none had applied to contest on a BJP ticket. Efforts were on to accommodate disgruntled workers, both from the BJD and the Congress.

General secretary of the BJP state unit Nayan Mohanty, however, refused to admit that shortage of candidates was troubling the party. He argued that the BJP had decided on phase-wise selection of candidates.

“The selection committee had decided to finalise candidates in phases. In the first phase, decision was taken on 17 of the 31 wards under the Barabati Cuttack Assembly constituency, 19 of the 22 wards under Choudwar Cuttack Assembly seat and four of the six wards under Sadar Cuttack Assembly constituency,” Mohanty told The Telegraph. The first list of 40 candidates, include 18 women, seven from the backward classes, four from the scheduled caste and one from the scheduled tribe.

“The party has opted to field new candidates. Moreover, sitting councillors alleged to have been involved in the post-Phailin relief scam have not been re-nominated,” senior BJP leader and member of the selection committee Samir Dey told The Telegraph.

After a Congress-majority council in 1997, a fractured mandate had prevented any political party to enjoy single majority to form the municipal council in 2003. While BJP had then cornered 16 of the 48 wards, 14 wards had gone to the Congress and nine to BJD, making post-poll alliance inevitable for them to form the council. In the 2009 civic polls, the BJP was the prime loser winning only two of the 54 wards. The party organisation in the city had since remained defunct, forcing the party to launch a membership drive making Narendra Modi as the mascot to attract new members.

“There has been a positive response to the membership drive, especially among the youth. Besides, around a 100 Congress workers and 200 BJD workers in the city had joined the BJP on Monday,” said Dey, a former minister who had represented the Cuttack Assembly constituency thrice.

Papers filed

Filing of nominations picked up as 26 nominations were filed today.

“Among the 26 nominations, 12 are from the Congress, two from the BJP, three for the CPI(M) and nine Independents,” said election officer Laxmidhar Mohanty said. “So far, 385 nomination forms have been issued, 232 of them being today,” Mohanty said.

Senior Congress leader and former minister Bijaylaxmi Sahu’s daughter Sriya Sahu filed papers as from ward No. 25. Dhirendra Sethi and his wife Tapoi filed papers for the Congress from ward Nos. 33 and 32, respectively.

“Winning from the two adjacent seats will make it easier for us to tackle the drainage and waterlogging problem in the area,” Dhirendra said.