BHUBANESWAR: Veteran Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and party’s candidate from Patkura Assembly segment Bed Prakash Agarwalla passed away here on Saturday. He was 82. Agarwalla was undergoing treatment at a private hospital for the last several days and was under life support system. Mortal remains of the veteran leader will be taken to Kendrapara and then to Puri for last rites, sources said.
However, questions are being raised about his candidature though he was seriously ill and bed-ridden. As election to the Assembly segment has to be countermanded, senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra, who had been fielded from the seat by the party, will have to wait for some more months for getting a chance to enter the Assembly again.
Sources maintained that BJD supremo was given a proposal to field Agarwalla’s son from the seat because of his illness. However, he had rejected the proposal. But several other senior leaders including V Sugnani Deo, Ramesh Chandra Chau Patnaik and Arjun Charan Sethi were not given tickets on health grounds.
A former Minister, Agarwalla had been elected to Odisha Legislative Assembly six times in his career - four times from Kendrapara and twice from Patkura. After his death, election to Patkura Assembly seat is set to be countermanded though it is yet to be notified by the Election Commission (EC) officially.
As per guidelines laid down by EC in Handbook for Returning Officers, the Section 52 of Representation of the people (Amendment) Act, 1996 stipulates that in the event of death of a candidate of a recognised political party, election will only be adjourned if the said candidate dies after 11 am on the last date for making nominations; his/her nomination has been found valid on scrutiny under Section and he/she has not withdrawn his/her candidature; and if he/she dies as a contesting candidate and a report of his/her death is received before the commencement of the polls.
Despite his illness, the BJD had given him a ticket to contest polls from Patkura Assembly seat. The segment under Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency was scheduled to go to polls in the fourth phase on April 29. Agarwalla, who was in the political arena for over 50 years, had entered active politics in 1957 after being elected as a Councillor of Kendrapara Municipality. A former Finance Minister in the Biju Patnaik Government between 199o and 1995, Agarwalla had also served as the Minister of Commerce and Transport in Nilamani Routray Cabinet in 1979 and as Food, Civil Supplies and Rural Development Minister in Naveen Patnaik Cabinet in 2000.
A close confidante of Biju Patnaik, Agarwalla had joined BJP in late 1990s. He later joined BJD after split of BJD-BJP alliance in 2009 and held several key posts including the post of Chairman of Biju Centenary Celebration Committee and BJD manifesto committee.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Union Cabinet minister Jual Oram and many other political leaders condoled the death of the senior BJD leader. Describing Agarwalla as an able leader and administrator, the Chief Minister said his death is an irreparable loss for him and the party.