JAGATSINGHPUR: As the district BJD grapples with internal turmoil ahead of the Tirtol by-election, the BJP may have got a shot in the arm after veteran Congress leader Rajkishore Behera along with his supporters joined the saffron party on Friday.
Behera, who had unsuccessfully contested elections in Tirtol Assembly segment on a Congress ticket in 2009 and 2014, joined BJP at Bhubaneswar in presence of the party’s State general secretary Pruthiraj Harichandan and vice-president Pravati Parida. Former Congress MLA Kailash Mallick and ex-chairman of Tirtol panchayat samiti Pradipta Nayak also joined BJP with him.
Alleging that Congress was ignoring him, Behera had quit the grand old party on Thursday. There is a talk in the town that Behera is likely to be made the BJP candidate in the upcoming Tirtol by-polls.Local BJP leaders said Behera’s entry will strengthen the party in Tirtol. However, sources said hopes of ticket aspirants in BJP have been dashed and some may even leave the party after today’s development.
Former MP and BJP leader Bibhu Prasad Tarai said though the party wanted him to contest the by-polls, he was not interested. The BJP will be strengthened by joining of the Congress leaders. We will fight unitedly to defeat the rival candidates in the elections,” he said.
However, other BJP leaders aspiring for party ticket are in doubt over their fate. Party leader Ramakant Bhoi, who had unsuccessfully contested from Tirtol seat in 2014 and 2019 Assembly elections, said BJP candidate for the by-polls has not yet been finalised. “I am confident to get the party ticket from Tirtol seat. After the ticket is finalised, I will chart my next course of action,” he said.Others in the race for BJP ticket from Tirtol are Harihar Behera and Sanjay Das.
In 2014 elections, Behera polled 53,505 votes and was defeated by BJD candidate and now Jagatsinghpur MP Rajashree Mallick by a margin of 35,448 votes. He secured 48,100 votes and lost to BJD candidate late Rabi Bhoi by a margin of 34,182 votes in 2009 polls.
On the other hand, political observers opined that BJP is unlikely to gain from Behera’s entry as Congress doesn’t have a sizable vote bank in Tirtol. In 2019 elections, BJP had managed to get 53,581 votes due to rift between former Tirtol MLA late Bishnu Das and his arch rival Mallick. The joining of Behera is likely to create conflict within BJP, they added.
The BJD too is witnessing intra-party squabbles due to fraction between supporters of Bishnu’s son Bijay Shankar and local MP Mallick’s husband Asutosh. Both Bijay and Asutosh are eyeing for the party ticket from Tirtol.