2 independents join BJD ahead of RS polls

In a significant development on the eve of the crucial Rajya Sabha elections in Odisha, two independent legislators on Thursday joined the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) as its associated members in the state Assembly. 

The decision of two MLAs – Jitu Patnaik from Champua constituency in north Odisha’s Keonjhar district and Braja Pradhan from Talcher in coastal Angul district – has enhanced the prospects of the BJD backed independent candidate, noted sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, who is engaged in a tough battle for the fourth Upper House vacancy from the state with Congress nominee, the IPL chairman and prominent cricket administrator Ranjib Biswal. 

Three other vacant seats are expected to be easily captured by the nominees of the BJD which has a strength of as many as 108 MLAs in the 147 member state Assembly. The elections for the prestigious polls are scheduled for Friday. 

Thursday morning witnessed hectic political activities in the state capital as the two legislators met the chief minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik twice – once in his Assembly chamber and again at his residence – for talks.

After the second meeting, the MLAs announced their decision to the waiting reporters. They denied any “deal” with the BJD for their support during the Rajya Sabha polls and insisted that they joined hands with the ruling regional outfit to further develop their constituencies. Both said “yes” when asked if they would vote for the BJD-backed independent candidate during the Friday polls.  

The development has become a setback for the Congress nominee Biswal, who was hoping to get the first preference votes of both the MLAs.

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