Raghunath Mohanty and Jitu Patnaik
Bhubaneswar, March 24: Former law minister Raghunath Mohanty has paid a heavy price for the dowry torture controversy surrounding his family. The stalwart, who held sway in Balasore district for over a decade, was today denied the BJD ticket from his constituency.
Mohanty, a five-time MLA from Basta, found himself in the eye of a storm in March last year when his daughter-in-law, Barsa Swony Chaudhary brought allegations of dowry torture against his family.
With the government ordering a Crime Branch inquiry into the incident, the minister’s son, Rajashree, was the first to be arrested. Mohanty and his wife were later picked up from Calcutta. Following this, he had to step down from Naveen Patnaik’s council of ministers.
While the case is still in court, Barsa sparked speculations about Mohanty’s future when she met chief minister Naveen Patnaik last month seeking “justice”. The chief minister has replaced the veteran from Basta with his close associate, Nityananda Sahu, a former block chairman. Sahu’s wife, Sabita, is the present chairman of Basta block.
The BJD, which announced candidates for 15 more Assembly seats today, has denied tickets to seven sitting MLAs, including Mohanty. The others to have been nixed are Bibhuti Balabantaray (Jatni), Bhagirathi Sethi (Anandapur), Premananda Naik (Telkoi), Sipra Mallick (Kendrapara), Subarna Naik (Keonjhar) and Rajendra Das (Dhamnagar).
The party has so far dropped 33 sitting MLAs and six sitting MPs.
The Congress today announced eminent criminal lawyer Dharnidhar Nayak as its candidate from the prestigious Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat. Pradesh Congress Campaign Committee chairman and Union minister Srikant Jena will contest from Balasore for the second time.
Significantly, the BJD today threw cold water on the hopes of Champus MLA Jitu Patnaik, who had joined the party on the eve of the recent Rajya Sabha polls by refusing to nominate himself from the seat. It has fielded popular comedian, Pappu Pom Pom, aka Tatwa Prakash Satpathy, from the constituency.
Forced to swallow his pride, Jitu said he would abide by the decision of the party chief. He had joined the ruling party along with Talcher’s Independent MLA, Braja Kishore Pradhan, who has, however, managed to get a BJD nomination from the constituency. The ruling party has so far declared the names of candidates for 145 Assembly constituencies, the two remaining seats being Patkura in Kendrapara district and Niali in Jagatsinghpur district.
Among the prominent MLAs to be denied ticket today was Bibhuti Balwantray, who represented Jatni. He has apparently been punished for his closeness to Odisha Jan Morcha leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra with whom he sided during the infamous revolt against the chief minister in 2012. The Jatnai seat has been given to Bhagirathi Badajena, the sitting MLA from Bhubaneswar north, which has now been assigned to Priyadarshi Mishra, a new face.
Sitting Kendrapara MLA Sipra Mallick, daughter of veteran politician Prahallad Mallick, a close associate of Biju Patnaik, was also dropped making her the second woman legislator to be denied a ticket after former minister Anjali Behera, who failed to get a ticket from Hindol. Sipra has been replaced by Kishore Chandra Tarai, a former MLA from Pattamundai.
Prominent among those who filed their nomination papers today were Congress’s Lok Sabha candidate from Cuttack, cine star Aparajita Mohanty and the party’s MLA candidates from Cuttack Chowdwar, Suresh Mohapatra and Cuttack-Barabati, Mohammad Muquim. Ama Odisha chief Soumya Ranjan Patnaik also filed his nomination from Khandapada.