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Winnability key to CM choice
Cong rebel left out of BJD list

Bhubaneswar, March 12: Former Hockey India captain Dillip Tirkey is set to play on a different turf while Arka Keshari Deo will make a royal debut with the ruling BJD announcing their names as its Lok Sabha candidates.

The party also released the names for three more Lok Sabha and 30 Assembly constituencies, the choice of candidates almost invariably decided by the winnability factor.

That pragmatism was uppermost in the mind of chief minister Naveen Patnaik was obvious from the fact that he has retained even leaders, who allegedly sided with bete noire Pyari Mohan Mohapatra when the latter had led a revolt against him.

There were a few surprises in the list. The names of both Tirkey, who is already a Rajya Sabha member, and Arka Keshari, who is the son of former minister Bikram Kesari Deo, were doing the rounds for past sometime.

The selection of Arka, the royal scion from Kalahandi, has, however, put paid to the hopes for Congress renegade Bhupinder Singh, who was angling for the Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat.

Arka, given his clean image and the political past of his family, is considered to be a safe bet against Congress veteran Bhakta Charan Das and the BJP’s Pradip Nayak, who will be his rivals on the seat which is considered a Congress bastion.

Similarly, Tirkey not only comes with a clean slate, but also enjoys a big following in Sundargarh, the constituency where he would be locking horns with Congress candidate and former chief minister Hemanand Biswal and BJP stalwart and former Union minister Jual Oram. This seat, too, was with the Congress.

While the party has renominated Kalikesh Singh Deo in Balangir and Siddhant Mohapatra in Berhampur, mainly on account of the youth factor, it has replaced its Aska MP Nityananda Pradhan with former MLA Ladu Kishore Swain as the chief minister was not impressed with the former’s track record as a Lok Sabha member.

Sources said that in the event of Tirkey being elected to the Lok Sabha, his Rajya Sabha seat (he has still more than four years to go in the Upper House) might be handed over to former Opposition leader Bhupinder Singh, who changed sides at the last minute, needs to be rehabilitated given his political stature. Bhupinder might also be feeling cheated as his son, Daljeet Singh has failed to make the cut for his home turf Narla Assembly seat.

Keen on infusing fresh blood, Naveen has inducted 10 new faces, including four women in the list of candidates for the Assembly. As many as 15 sitting MLAs, including chief minister himself and five of his ministers have been renominated. However, veteran legislator V. Sugyani Kumari Deo does not figure in the list with speculation rife that she has opted out of contest. In her place, the party has decided to field Latika Pradhan, a newcomer on the prestigious Kabisuryanagar seat.

By announcing his list of candidates, Naveen has apparently sealed the scope of any adjustment with the Left parties. In 2009, Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, BJD had spared the seat for CPI (M) and the Sankhemundi Assembly seat which was given to the CPI. The BJD has fielded a member of Dharakote royal family.

Incidentally, the CPI held its state executive and other committee meetings today hoping that the BJD leadership would forge an alliance. Veteran CPI leader A.B. Vardhan was hopeful of having an alliance with the BJD.

In a clever political move, the BJD fielded its slain leader, Abhimanyu Sahu’s widow, Geeta, from Titilagarh hoping to ride the sympathy wave in favour of Sahu. Abhimanyu was killed by hired assassins. There were allegations that he was killed by BJD leaders, who could not tolerate his rise in the party.

Sarada Prasad Nayak, long perceived to be a loyalist of Odisha Jan Morcha leader Pyari Mohan Mohaptra, has been re-nominated from Rourkela.