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Spring in step for Congress

- BJD and BJP in verbal duel after defeat

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 8: While the Rajya Sabha victory of IPL chairman, Ranjib Biswal seems to have breathed a new life into the near moribund state Congress, it has, by contrast, sparked off an ugly war of words between the ruling BJD and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The allies-turned-foes, who had backed ace sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra on the fourth seat, which went to Biswal, today accused each other of backstabbing the Padma Vibhushan awardee whose decision to throw his hat into the Rajya Sabha ring had raised many eyebrows.

Senior BJD leader and government chief whip, Pravat Tripathy, took a swipe at the BJP for failing to keep its flock together which proved costly for Mohapatra, who could manage only 20 first preference votes against 29 polled by Biswal for whom the 27-strong Congress legislature party voted en bloc apart from two Independent MLAs.

“Had all the BJP MLAs cast their ballots in his favour, Raghunath babu would have won easily. But two of them did not vote for him, putting paid to his chances,” said Tripathy, putting the entire blame for the artist’s shock defeat on the saffron leadership.

The BJP retaliated immediately, calling chief minister Naveen Patnaik a “habitual backstabber”.

“He has done it in the past and now he has done it again in the case of Mohapatra,” said state BJP president, K.V. Singh Deo. Senior party leader Arun Singh, who looks after the state BJP affairs, was even more caustic in his criticism, saying that Raghunath, a political novice, fell into the trap of scheming BJD leaders. “They trapped and betrayed him,” alleged Singh.

Sources said the last moment decision of the BJP to support Mohapatra has hurt the party badly. “It was a tough call because we ran the risk of being seen as allying with the BJD, which is our prime enemy in the state. The defeat of Mohapatra has made our embarrassment all the more acute,” conceded a BJP leader not willing to be named. Worse, the faux pas came days ahead of Narendra Modi’s much touted Vijay Sankalp rally in the state capital on Tuesday.

The BJP, which is pulling out all stops to make it a spectacular show, has set up five Modi tea stalls in different parts of the city to drum up support for their prime ministerial candidate.

But the Rajya Sabha misadventure continues to rankle the party.

On the other hand, the Congress, faction-ridden and down in the dumps having received a severe drubbing in the recent civil polls in the state, has got a kiss of life with the victory of Biswal. The party could not have asked for a better gift on the eve of Rahul Gandhi’s two-day visit to the state beginning tomorrow.

“The victory has come as a big morale booster. It has united the party and now we are confident of bouncing back to power. The common party worker is bubbling with confidence and ready to put in his best. The Rajya Sabha victory is the best piece of news we have heard in a long time,” said leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh.


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