BHUBANESWAR: Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik again sprang a surprise on Sunday by naming tribal activist Niranjan Bishi, secretary-general of Paschima Odisha Advasi Kalyan Sangha organisation, for a Rajya Sabha seat along with three others, party spokesperson Sulata Deo, national spokesperson Sasmit Patra and media advisor Manas Mangaraj.
Naveen’s choice of candidates reflects a careful mix of representation from OBC, women, tribal, and minority communities. Two of the four candidates are OBCs, including one woman, while scheduled tribe and minority communities have also got representation with one seat each. By nominating two OBC candidates, the BJD also hopes to assuage the resentment growing among the community as seats could not be reserved for them in panchayat and urban local body polls.
Going by regional representation, Bishi is from western Odisha while Deo is from undivided Cuttack (coastal Odisha). Mangaraj is from Balugaon in Khurda, which is also coastal Odisha and Sasmit is a native of Kandhamal-Gajapati region in south Odisha. But, his most surprising pick is Bishi, who has been a trenchant critic of the ruling party over the neglect of tribals.
He had given a call for a boycott of BJD for not giving proper representation to the tribals in the recent panchayat elections while leading several agitations against the State government on farm and tribal issues. Bishi hails from Balangir and was inducted to the BJD only on Friday. Sources said that Bishi has been chosen by overlooking other scheduled tribe contenders like Pradip Majhi and Santosh Amat because of his base in western Odisha districts.
The organisation headed by Bishi has a good presence in Balangir, Kalahandi, Sambalpur and other western districts. While expressing happiness over his nomination, Bishi said, “I have been working for the rights of the tribals, farmers, and other backward class people. I have been raising my voice as a lot of schemes for the welfare of the tribals are not being implemented properly. Now, as the Chief Minister has given me a responsibility, I will ensure that the benefits of such schemes reach the people.”
The renomination of Patra was expected because of his impressive performance in the Upper House during the last two years. He is the third person after Pyarimohan Mohapatra and Baijayant Panda, to be renominated for a second term in the Upper House. Patra said he will continue to raise matters of importance and sharpen the State’s voice in Rajya Sabha.
Deo, the spokesperson of the BJD for the last several years, has been rewarded for defending the government on several issues including the Mahanga double murder, Kalahandi school teacher murder, and Srimandir Parikrama project.“I will work under the guidance of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take forward the mission of women empowerment,” Deo said.
Mangaraj was the Congress candidate for Chilika Assembly seat in the 2014 election and joined BJD in 2018. He has since been handling the media for BJD and the State government. He is now the media advisor to the government with Minister of State rank.“I will raise issues concerning Odisha in Rajya Sabha and try to ensure that they are heard,” he said.
While Bishi has been nominated for the bypoll with a four-year tenure, the three others will get a full term of six years. The election will be held on June 10 for three vacancies as the terms of Prasanna Acharya, N Bhaskar Rao and Sasmit Patra will end on July 1. A Bypoll for the vacancy arising because of the resignation of Subash Singh after his election as Mayor of Cuttack Municipal Corporation will be held on June 13.