The Telegraph
Thursday , January 12 , 2017

BJD ready for glitzy panchayat poll show

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 11: The BJD today set the stage for a high-voltage show of cine stars and party heavyweights in its campaign for next month's panchayat poll.

The party's list of star campaigners, submitted to the state election commission today, includes film star-turned-MPs Siddhant Mohapatra and Anubhab Mohanty and Korei MLA Akash Das Nayak. Film-stars Prasant Nanda, Mihir Das, Trupti Das, Kuna Tripathy, Satwaki Mishra and Arindam Ray will also join the BJD campaign.

Comedian Pappu Pom Pom aka Tatwa Prakash Satpathy, who was suspended from the party for his alleged involvement in a sexual harassment case, have been left out.

However Naveen, who depends on younger Turks, has not failed to pick up veteran heavyweights such as Damodor Rout, Bijayshree Routray, Pradeep Amat, Debi Prasad Mishra and Ranendra Pratap Swain to lead the campaigns across the state.

Other BJD veterans, who are known for their proximity to Naveen, such as Rajya Sabha MPs Prasanna Acharya, Ananga Uday Singh Deo, and MLA Surya Narayan Patro also figure in the list.

Clarifying the rationale behind such a glitzy list of campaigners, a senior party leader said: "Its not possible for Naveen Patnaik to go everywhere. The cine stars will be the major crowd pullers."

Party spokesperson and vice-president Patro, however, said: "The chief minister is our only star campaigner. Others are just workers. The cine stars, who are party workers, have also a duty to campaign during the elections."

However, senior BJD leaders remained tight-lipped on Naveen's decision not to involve most of the party's Lok Sabha members in the poll show.

Of its 20 Lok Sabha members, only actor Siddhant figures in the list. Incidentally, the Lok Sabha members were not used in the exercise to select candidates for the three-tier body either.

A senior leader hinted that it all might simply be due to the fact that Naveen wanted the Lok Sabha MPs to focus only on the budget session of Parliament.

Another notable exception from the rural poll show is agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy, the party's kisan face.

Former health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, who had to quit following the fire tragedy at SUM Hospital in last October, continues to enjoy Naveen's confidence. His inclusion in the list of star campaigners may raise the brows of Kendrapara Lok Sabha member Baijayant Panda. The two leaders are at loggerheads and their supporters had clashed in front of the chief minister during his visit to Kendrapara district in November last.

BJD vice-president Damodar Rout, known for his public spat with Cuttack-Barabati MLA Debasis Samantray and Rajya Sabha member Bishnu Das, said: "I have been included as I enjoy the confidence of the party supremo. I will do my best." Samantray and Das don't figure in the list, which obviously makes the smile on Rout's face bigger.

Among the younger leaders who have been drafted for the campaign include ministers Pranab Prakas Das, Arun Sahu, Sanjay Das Burma, Pradeep Panigrahi, Ramesh Majhi and hockey star-turned-MP Dillip Tirkey.

The BJP also released its 40-member list of star campaigners today. Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan led the release ceremony, but it did not go without a controversy. Party veterans Bijoy Mahapatra and Rourkela MLA Dilip Ray, who are known for their antipathy towards Pradhan, did not figure in the initial list. Later in the day, the BJP clarified that it was "a clerical mistake" and came out with a revised list containing the names of the two heavyweights. Mahapatra and Ray are known for their critical views on Pradhan's stand over the contentious Mahanadi issue.

A BJP leader said the list was full of Pradhan's supporters, who are now calling shots in the state party. Prominent leaders who feature in the list are Union tribal welfare minister Jual Oram, BJP legislature party leader Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo and MLA Pradeep Purohit. The party will also field film stars Sritam Das and Pinky Pradhan in the campaign.

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