AU Singh Deo
Bhubaneswar, April 22: When the EVMs, lodged in strong rooms under tight vigil, are unlocked on May 16, they would not only decide the victors of 21 Lok Sabha and 147 Assembly seats in the state, but also set off a fresh Rajya Sabha race.
For among the candidates in the Lok Sabha and Assembly fray from the state are three Rajya Sabha members and one who could not quite make it despite being elected to the Upper House. Nonetheless, the seat that he got elected to remains unoccupied, and hence, if all of them win the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats, they are contesting, there will be four vacancies in the Rajya Sabha from the state.
As Kalpataru Das and Sarojini Hembram, senior BJD leaders and former ministers, took oath as Rajya Sabha members today having been elected to the House of Elders on February 9, there was intense speculation in the state over who others might go to the Rajya Sabha from the state once the general elections have run their course.
Though the exact number of Rajya Sabha vacancies from the state remains in the real of speculation as of now, there is no doubt about the one seat that has already fallen vacant on account of an apparent faux pas on the part from former minister A.U. Singh Deo, who was elected to the Upper House in February along with two of his party colleagues who took oath today. Indian Premier League chairman and former Congress MP Ranjib Biswal was also elected to the Rajya Sabha in the same lot.
Singh Deo’s case has been a little curious. Being keen on being promoted to the Rajya Sabha for past sometime, he was one of the happiest persons when he was declared a winner on February 9. But, even as he was preparing to move to Delhi, the BJD got embroiled in a controversy over his Assembly seat, Balangir, from where the party had decided to field Harekrushna Sarangi, one of his loyalists. The fracas forced the leadership to change its decision and Singh Deo was asked to resign his Rajya Sabha seat and seek re-election from Balangir.
However, while Singh Deo, willy nilly, jumped into the Assembly poll fray, neither did he make any move to give up his status as a Rajya Sabha member-elect nor did he resign his Assembly membership which would have automatically prevented him from taking up a seat in the parliament’s Upper House.
“Some other time,” the royal scion from Balangir quipped wistfully when asked if he has been unlucky chasing a Rajya Sabha dream.
He cannot even be sure of a re-nomination in the event of losing his Assembly seat, this one being a close race between him and his Congress rival, former minister Narasingha Mishra. “I don’t know, I haven’t discussed it with him (the chief minister). It is for the party to decide,” he said.
But, at least one of the Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant would go to the BJD’s rising star, Odia matinee idol Anubhav Mohanty. He was promised a nomination by the chief minister himself on the eve of the polls, a clever bait to ensure his full support to the BJD campaign.
On the remaining seats there could be many contenders including Singh Deo, a member of BJD old guard. Some of his old colleagues such as former finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei and Surendra Nath Nayak also appear to be angling for Rajya Sabha berths. Ghadei, who has been sulking since being denied an Assembly ticket, has gone on record as saying that he has been promised an Upper House seat.
However, BJD insiders say that given the changed equations within the party there may be more disappointment in store for the old guard. “The focus is on the new generation leaders. So, the veterans cannot take Rajya Sabha nominations for granted,” said a source. With his stock seemingly down, Singh Deo sought to side-step the issue. “I won’t comment on that,” he quipped laconically.