Odisha: BJD, BJP nominate Vajpayee’s ex-private secy for RS, Cong says they have ‘secret understanding’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/odisha-bjd-bjp-nominate-vajpayees-ex-private-scy-for-rajya-sabha-cong-accuses-of-secret-understanding-5793642/

Odisha: BJD, BJP nominate Vajpayee’s ex-private secy for RS, Cong says they have ‘secret understanding’

Patnaik initially said the party will nominate Ashwini Baishnab, a former IAS officer from Odisha who was private secretary to Atal Behari Vajpayee when he was Prime Minister. Patnaik said Baishnab was someone who “served Odisha very well”.

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Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik said, “I think there was some confusion about Ashwini Baishnab. The PM spoke to me as did the Home Minister. We will support the candidature of Baishnab.” (File photo)

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday announced two candidates for upcoming Rajya Sabha polls from the state and added that BJD will support a third candidate proposed by the BJP. Later, Bhartiya Janata Party declared Ashwini Baishnab as BJP’s candidate for the Upper House from Odisha.

The BJP’s official account tweeted: The party has decided that Shri Ashwini Baishnab will be Bharatiya Janata Party’s candidate for the upcoming bypolls to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha.

Patnaik initially said the party will nominate Ashwini Baishnab, a former IAS officer from Odisha who was private secretary to Atal Behari Vajpayee when he was Prime Minister. Patnaik said Baishnab was someone who “served Odisha very well”.

The announcements led to a major confusion on the party membership of Baishnab. Patnaik again clarified, “I think there was some confusion about Ashwini Baishnab. The PM spoke to me as did the Home Minister. We will support the candidature of Baishnab.”

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Senior BJD leaders expressed “surprise” over Baishnab’s “joint nomination”. “We have many senior leaders who had been promised Rajya Sabha seats by the CM because they were not given Lok Sabha or assembly tickets. But their cooperation helped us win those seats. It is not clear why we are throwing away a seat”, said a BJD leader requesting anonymity.

BJD, with 112 out 146 seats in the state assembly, is expected to comfortably win all three Rajya Sabha seats. Citing its strength of 23 MLAs, BJP’s Odisha unit had previously admitted to journalists that “it is not in a position to elect someone to the Rajya Sabha”.

“The cat is out of the bag,” said senior Congress leader Narasingh Mishra said to The Indian Express. The same choice of Rajya Sabha candidate along with BJD’s support for one-nation one-poll clearly proves what our party had been saying in the run up to the elections. “The BJD and BJP have always had a secret understanding. In critical moments, they support one another. In public, they abuse each other.”

Mishra also said that Rahul Gandhi in several rallies in Odisha had talked about BJD and BJP’s pact. Claiming that Odisha “is being run from Nagpur and Delhi”, Gandhi during the election campaign in Odisha had said, “Because of the chit fund scam by the Odisha CM and his ministers, Odisha’s remote control is with India’s corrupt chowkidaar.”

The other two BJD candidates for Rajya Sabha are its IT cell head and former Principal AG of Odisha Amar Patnaik and Sasmit Patra, party spokesperson.