BJP will not contest Rajya Sabha polls in Odisha due to lack of MLAs

BJP will not contest Rajya Sabha polls in Odisha due to lack of MLAs

Two days after Biju Janata Dal announced the names of 4 of its candidates for the Rajya Sabha polls scheduled later this month, the BJP on Monday said it would not put up its candidate for the polls as it lacked required numbers.

BJP leader Prithwiraj Harichandan said had the party wanted to contest then it would have nominated a candidate by now. “We have no stakes in this poll. As we don’t have the numbers, there is quite a big possibility of our candidate losing. So we have decided to sit out,” said Harichandan on Monday. BJP has 23 MLAs in the Assembly.

The BJP’s announcement came a day after Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik announced that none of his 9 party MLAs would take part in the RS polls bringing down the effective number of valid votes to 138 from 147. If none of the Congrss MLAs listen to the party diktat and don’t vote then the number of effective votes required to win each of the seats would be 28, making it easier for BJD to clinch all the 4 seats. BJD has 113 MLAs in the Assembly and would need 112 votes for getting all its 4 candidates through.

Elections to 3 Rajya Sabha seats from Odisha would fall vacant next month. One seat is already vacant since last year. Elections to the 4 seats would be held on March 26.

But the BJP’s decision to sit out may have ended all speculations of the party wangling out at least one Rajya Sabha seat. In June 2019, BJP had prevailed over Naveen Patnaik at the last moment to get its candidate Ashwini Vaishnaw, a bureaucrat-turned-entrepreneur contest and win the polls. Late last month, Patnaik had hosted a lunch for union home minister Amit Shah in his residence in Bhubaneswar during the meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council seetting off speculations that BJP may corner at least one RS seat.

Since last two years, Odisha politics is abuzz with talks of a secret understanding between BJD and the BJP’s top brass even as the State leadership of BJP was all fire and brimstone against the regional party. In August 2018, BJD had voted for Harivansh Narayan Singh, NDA’s nominee for the post of Rajya Sabha deputy chairman. In December last year, BJP had supported the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill. Soon after, BJP made a concession to BJD by getting its MP withdrew his candidature for membership of the managing committee of AIIMS, Bhubaneswar so that BJD MP Amar Patnaik could register a win.

CPI’s national council member Ramakrushna Panda said BJP’s decision to not contest the RS polls showed how the two parties were thick as thieves. “Naveen Patnaik may have unilaterally announced all the 4 candidates, but he remains committed to his friendship with BJP. He has supported BJP all throughout. So any talk of he turning his back on BJP is just eyewash. Whenever the need arises, BJD MPs would support BJP in Parliament,” said Panda.

Political science professor in Ravenshaw University, Gyana Ranjan Swain said BJD may have wanted to erase the growing impression that it was inching closer to BJP. “Though he has his compulsions of supporting BJP in key bills, the impression of being in league with BJP is not a good things for his own politics. By getting all 4 candidates from his party, he sent signals that he alone would decide how the relationship develops. For BJP also keeping Patnaik in good humour is crucial as he has been supporting them in key junctures,” said Swain.