The Rajya Sabha will conduct elections on March 23 for the 58 seats falling vacant in April. These 58 seats are in 16 states, many of which have already elected their representatives. In Odisha, where polling for three seats was to be conducted, all three Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidates have been elected unopposed.
Prashant Nanda, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Achyuta Samanta were declared elected on March 15, which was the last day for withdrawing nominations. The papers were scrutinised on March 13, when the nomination of lone Independent candidate, Subhas Mohapatra, was found to be invalid as he had failed to arrange for the required MLA proposers.
Interestingly, Patnaik and Samanta joined the BJD only on March 7, the day their candidature was announced.
The victory of the three BJD nominees was a foregone conclusion as the party had the required numbers in the assembly and there was no other nomination. Opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP, had not fielded any candidate due to the inadequate numbers.
While the BJD has 118 MLAs in the 147-member House, the Congress and the BJP have 15 and 10 legislators, respectively. A candidate required at least 37 first-preference votes to get elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state.
Three Rajya Sabha seats are falling vacant from Odisha as the tenures of BJD MPs Dilip Tirkey, A U Singhdeo and BJD-backed Independent member A V Swamy will come to an end on April 2.
There was a flutter after the nominations were filed when Independent candidate Subash Mohapatra raised objections to the nomination papers of Achyuta Samanta and alleged before the media that Samanta had not disclosed cases registered against him, was holding an office of profit and had two voter identity cards.
Mohapatra said he would move court in this regard as his objections had not been considered.
Samanta, however, denied the allegations and said his affidavit and declarations were true.
The move to invite Samanta and Patnaik to join the party and almost simultaneously make them RS candidates dismayed quite a few aspiring long-time party leaders.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had however said the two leaders would be assets to the party as they were well known for their social work and capabilities.
On the other hand, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik had said it was due to the party’s vision and ideology that made him join the BJD, claiming that he had been invited by none other than Biju Patnaik to join his party 23 years ago.
Samanta, the well known social worker and founder of KIIT and KISS group of institutions, is making his debut in politics. He has said it was easy for him since he was a social worker and would continue to do the same kind of work.
While there were talks of Samanta being nominated to the Rajya Sabha initially, the CM’s announcement regarding his candidature took many by surprise as Patnaik had earlier issued a statement that he would select “politicians” for the job.
Interestingly, both Patnaik and Samanta have two different Odia television channels.
In fact, Patnaik runs a TV channel and a popular Odia daily newspaper, besides radio and theatre groups, all of which put together have a wide reach in the state, a factor said to be one of the reasons why the CM chose to rope him in.
Patnaik, a former MP, had been with the BJP before switching over to the Congress and subsequently forming his own Aam Odisha Party to contest the 2014 elections without success.
He is the son-in-law of late J B Patnaik.
Of late, Patnaik had been vocal against the Naveen Patnaik government and even led a farmers’ movement, another relating to duped chit fund depositors and an Odia language movement. On each count, he had been extremely critical of the state government and the CM.
Apparently, the move to rope him in also aims to broker peace with the leaders of all three movements.
Samanta too has a huge following in terms of his free tribal residential school KISS. He has wide reach across different segments of society and political parties.
Prasanta Nanda, a former movie actor and director, had been a BJP minister in the Naveen Patnaik government between 2000 and 2004. He quit the BJP to join the NCP and then moved on to the BJD.
In recent months, Nanda has been active in the BJD as spokesperson of the party.
Significantly, outgoing MPs A U Singh Deo, A V Swamy and Dilip Tirky belong to western Odisha districts and the three new members do not belong to the coastal districts.