BJD denies tickets to two senior cabinet ministers

 Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. File photo

Two senior cabinet ministers in Odisha have been denied party tickets by the ruling Biju Janata Dal(BJD) to contest the coming Assembly elections in the state.

They are finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera and forests and environment minister Bijoyshree Routray.

Behera’s exclusion from the list of candidates has come as a big surprise to many both within the regional outfit and outside. The senior minister is the sitting MLA from Jayadev constituency in the outskirts of capital Bhubaneswar. The BJD has replaced him with Arbind Dhali, a former MLA from the coastal seat. Behera’s supporters in the constituency have protested the party leadership’s decision to drop him.

So far as forest minister Routray is concerned, BJD sources said, he himself had decided not to contest the coming polls and requested party high command to consider party ticket for his son Bishnubrata Routray from his traditional Basudevpur Assembly constituency in north Odisha Bhadrak district. Accepting his request, the BJD has given party nomination to his son who has been managing his father’s constituency since 2012.

Forest minister Routray is the son of former chief minister late Nilamani Routray. He has been an MLA from the north Odisha constituency since last 29 years.

Meanwhile, the ruling regional outfit has received a major setback following two senior party leaders’ decision to quit the party and join the BJP. They are sitting party MP from Bhadrak Lok Sabha seat Arjun Sethi and senior vice-president of the party, Raghunath Mohanty.

Sethi, an eight-time MP from the north Odisha constituency had been seeking a re-nomination for him. He was also lobbying hard for his son if the party decided to field a new face. However, BJD replaced the veteran leader with Manjulata Mondal, wife of a sitting party MLA from Bhadrak district.

An angry Sethi quit the party and joined the saffron brigade. BJP has nominated his son Abhimanyu Sethi to contest from Bhadrak Lok Sabha seat.

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