Raja for Athgarh
|Ranendra Pratap Swain and Naveen Patnaik. Telegraph pictures|
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 20: BJD supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik today announced that former minister Ranendra Pratap Swain, aka Raja, would be the party’s candidate for the Athgarh assembly seat where a by-election would be held on March 18.
Naveen said: “Raja babu has done a lot of work for the Athgarh constituency. He will be our party’s candidate for the bypolls.”
After the announcement, supporters of Raja came out on the streets of Athgarh and celebrated by bursting crackers.
The by-election was necessitated after the Supreme Court had upheld the Orissa High Court’s decision to unseat sitting MLA Ramesh Rout following a petition from Raja. In the 2009 general elections, the returning officer rejected Raja’s nomination papers on the grounds that he had not submitted the original party ticket.
Ramesh Rout, said to be a close associate of Raja, had filed nomination papers as a dummy candidate. He contested as an independent candidate with the support of the BJD and won the Athgarh seat. Swain had challenged the decision of the returning officer to reject his nomination papers, as he had not submitted the official symbol order. The decision of the party to field four-time MLA swain was a foregone conclusion after Naveen had hinted last week that the leader had done a lot of development work in Athgarh and party would consider him for the ticket. Raja’s disqualification had followed a high voltage drama in the ruling BJD.
At one stage, there were allegations that Ramesh Rout was kidnapped by the former legislator and made to resign from the seat.
Swain had suspected involvement of certain party bigwigs in the episode.
After Naveen’s announcement, Raja said he would “forget the past” and “work for the party as a disciplined soldier”.
The BJD had given clear indications that Swain would be asked to take over the mantle of the constituency when he was given a free hand to select and campaign for the party’s panchayat candidates. BJD has put up an impressive show in Athgarh.
The model code of conduct, in force in Cuttack since February 17 for the panchayat polls and Athgarh by-election, will further delay the epidemiological survey at Narsinghpur and Badamba blocks. The survey is supposed to ascertain the cause of the unusually high incidence of kidney diseases among people in the area.
More than 50 per cent people in several villages in the area are reportedly suffering from renal dysfunctions and kidney related afflictions.
Though the groundwork for the survey was completed last December, the process could not be undertaken as the model code of conduct for the panchayat polls remained in force from December 23 to February 19. As the by-election for Athgarh will be held on March 18, the model code of conduct in Cuttack district will remain in force till March 25.
“SCB Medical College and Hospital’s department of community medicine had developed the format for the epidemiological investigation in pockets of Narsinghpur and Badamba. Collection of information on sources of water, dietary habits, history of diseases use of pesticides vis-à-vis geographical factors were been planned as part of the survey,” said councillor Shanbhog Nagraj Girish.