BHUBANESWAR: Announcement of Rajya Sabha polls by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for 55 vacancies, including four from Odisha, on March 26 has set the political circles abuzz with speculation over the game plan of ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
The BJD with 113 MLAs in the state Assembly has the strength to win three seats on its own but it is the fourth seat which makes the election interesting because main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not have the numbers to secure it.
The saffron party has 23 members in the Assembly. Similarly, Congress with nine members in the Assembly does not even have the strength to field a candidate.
However, with support of the lone CPM member in the assembly, the party can field its candidate. Out of the four vacancies, three seats were held by BJD while one seat was with the Congress.
The first seat to fall was that of actor Anubhav Mohanty who won from Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat on a BJD ticket in 2019 general elections.
Since less than a year of his tenure was left, election was not held to fill the vacancy caused by Mohanty's resignation from Rajya Sabha.
Three other members - Narendra Kumar Swain and Sarojini Hembrum (both BJD) and Ranjib Biswal of
Congress will retire on April 2.
While BJD is set to win three seats, speculation is rife about the fourth seat with BJP’s announcement that the party will field its candidate.
The strength of Odisha assembly is 147 and the BJD will need 120 votes to win all the four seats.
However, the ruling BJD is 7 short of the required votes to win the fourth seat. Similarly, with 23 MLAs, the BJP is also seven votes short of winning the fourth seat.
Sources say that the BJD might extend support to BJP for the fourth seat.
The fact that the regional party had gifted one seat to its one-time ally when former IAS officer Ashwini Vaishanv’s nomination was supported by Naveen Patnaik-led BJD last year after the general elections lends credence to the speculation.
The two-day visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Odisha for the Eastern Zone Council meeting from February 28 and the bonhomie the two parties have displayed over many national issues only adds fuel.
However, the BJD on Tuesday said that it is not under any pressure over seat-sharing. “We are not under any pressure over seat-sharing for the ensuing elections. The high command will take a call on this matter in the interest of the party,” Government chief whip Pramila Mallick told the media persons here.
BJD spokesperson Samir Ranjan Das also maintained that selection of candidates will be done by Chief Minister and party president Naveen Patnaik.
On the other hand, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, Narasingha Mishra, said his party does not have the numbers to field a candidate. “But the party can nominate its candidate with the support of the Left party.
"The party supremo will take a decision this regard,” he said.
Asked about BJP candidature, Mishra quipped that the saffron party will get as many seats it wants by putting pressure on the BJD.
Leader of the Opposition and senior BJP leader Pradipta Naik said that BJP will contest the polls and the central leadership will take a decision on the candidate.
According to the schedule announced by ECI, the notification for the polls would be issued on March 6, last date of filing of nominations is March 13 and polling would conducted be on March 26, from 9 am to 4 pm.
The votes would be counted at 5 pm the same day.