Bhubaneswar, Jan. 24: The Congress is likely to field its own candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat rather than supporting sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, whom the BJD has fielded. Mohapatra, a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, has decided to contest as an Independent.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena and party leader Bhupinder Singh will go to Delhi tomorrow to discuss the issue with the party leadership.
“I have already suggested to the high command that it names someone who can be fielded as a party candidate for the Rajya Sabha. We have the adequate numbers and will be able to send a Congress candidate to the Rajya Sabha. We should not fall prey to Naveen’s politics,” said Jena.
Jena added that if Naveen was so keen to send Mohapatra, he should send him as his party candidate.
Former Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Sarat Patnaik said: “We respect Raghunath Mohapatra as a sculptor. But, if the BJD wants him to go to Rajya Sabha, it should send him directly on a party ticket.”
Sources said an industrialist had expressed his keenness to go to the Rajya Sabha with Congress’ support. At least 16 Congress MLAs are said to have favoured his candidature. A powerful section within the party is also keen to send former Congress MP and IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal to the Upper House.
The BJD, which has 108 MLAs, can win three of the four Rajya Sabha seats. The party has 18 surplus votes but it needs 12 more to win the fourth seat. In the 147-member Assembly, the Congress has 27 seats, the BJP six and the CPI one. Five seats are held by Independents.
In a related development, Odisha Jana Morcha president Pyari Mohan Mohapatra has ridiculed Naveen for announcing Mohapatra as an Independent candidate for the Rajya Sabha.
Mohapatra said if Naveen “has such artistic sensibility for the distinguished sculptor”, his party should nominate him as the party’s official candidate and leave the fourth seat for Opposition parties.
On the other hand, the BJP, which has already announced its support for an Independent candidate, is in a fix over Mohapatra. “State party president K.V. Singh Deo will take a decision on this issue,” said BJP national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan.
The names of three official candidates of the BJD are yet to be finalised. They are expected to be announced on January 27.
The election committee of the Pradesh Congress Committee met today and decided that tickets for the Lok Sabha elections would be given to candidates with winning prospects. The party is making a list of probable candidates for the 21 Lok Sabha seats.