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Bhupinder, AU chosen for RS

Bhubaneswar, June 21: Former minister A.U. Singh Deo and Bhupinder Singh, the Congress leader who had switched over to the Biju Janata Dal, will be the BJD’s two candidates for the Rajya Sabha.

The elections to the two seats will be held on July 3. The vacancies were created by the resignations of Sashi Bhusan Behera and Rabi Narayan Mohapatra, who have been elected to the Assembly.

While Behera’s term ends on July 1, 2016, Mohapatra’s tenure was to expire on April 3, 2018. It could not be immediately ascertained who would fill which seat. It will be officially known when they submit their nomination papers on June 23. In the 147-member Assembly, the BJD has 117 and the party is certain to win both the seats.

Naveen’s Doon School mate, 69-year-old A.U. Singh Deo, who had held important positions in the Biju Patnaik and Naveen Patnaik governments must be a relieved person. A scion of Balangir royal family, whose son Kalikesh represents Balangir in the Lok Sabha, A.U. Singh Deo has been aiming for a Rajya Sabha berth for a long time. He had missed the berth in 2002 when the BJD had cross-voted, helping former Union minister Dillip Ray to win the seat.

Last February, Singh Deo was elected to the Upper House but before he could take oath, he was asked by Naveen to contest from his home turf — the Balangir Assembly seat. While his son won by a handsome margin, the veteran from west Odisha lost to Congress stalwart Narasingha Mishra.

There were many leaders in the party who were lobbying for the seats. Prafulla Chandra Ghadei and Kalindi Charan Behera, who were denied party tickets at the last minute, were hopeful of being accommodated. Ghadei, in fact, was on record saying that he was assured by the leader that he would be sent to the Rajya Sabha.

Former finance minister Prasanna Acharya, who is considered quite close to Naveen, had lost the Assembly elections and was expected to be rewarded.

Instead, Naveen picked up 63-year-old Bhupinder Singh, who was the leader of Opposition in the last Assembly, and switched his loyalties on the eve of the elections. Bhupinder is from Kalahandi and the ruling party has done considerably well there this time compared to the last elections.

“Had he not rewarded Singh, no leader from other parties would have ever thought of joining the BJD,” said a senior party leader.

“I am thankful to Naveen that he is sending me to the Rajya Sabha. He is the captain of the team and what he decides, it is binding on us,” said Singh.

Singh Deo said: “We will fight to protect the interest of the state and continue to raise the issue of granting the special-category status to our state. As a new government has come at the helm of affairs at the Centre, we will see how more funds can be driven towards the state. We will also focus on expeditious implementation of the long-pending Khurda-Balangir railway project.”


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