Biju Janata Dal allocates 25% of Lok Sabha seats to party hoppers

Five leaders who switched sides have been swiftly rewarded by the BJD for LS election

April 04, 2024 10:15 am | Updated April 05, 2024 03:00 am IST - BHUBANESWAR:

Former Congress MLA Chiranjib Biswal joinsed Biju Janata Dal in Bhubaneswar, Sunday, March 31, 2024.

Former Congress MLA Chiranjib Biswal joinsed Biju Janata Dal in Bhubaneswar, Sunday, March 31, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Until Wednesday, April 3, 2024, Bhrugu Baxipatra, previously the vice president of the State Bharatiya Janata Party, was firmly entrenched within the saffron party. However, his career trajectory swiftly changed direction following his resignation from the party he had long been associated with. Come evening, Mr. Baxipatra found himself nominated as the Berhampur constituency’s MP candidate for the Biju Janata Dal, a party he contested against in the 2019 elections.

In a peculiar turn of events, just a week ago, Manmath Routray, son of senior Congress leader Suresh Chandra Routray, joined the BJD on March 27. On the same day, his name appeared on the regional party’s list of MP candidates. The debutant politician will now lock horn with Aparajita Sarangi, BJP’s national spokesperson.

This turn of events marks a notable departure for the BJD, a party that has historically been highly sought after in Odisha since its establishment in 1997, and one that has never struggled to find suitable candidates. BJD has so far announced candidates for 20 out of 21 seats in the State.

Also read: Five-time MLA Arabinda Dhali resigns from BJD, says will join BJP

Planned defections?

The election year of 2024 seems to be an exception as five leaders who switched sides have been swiftly rewarded by the BJD. It seemed as if the party had pre-prepared tickets awaiting leaders from other political factions.

Parinita Mishra’s career followed a similar trajectory to that of Mr. Baxipatra. Within hours of joining the party on April 3, Ms. Mishra’s candidacy for Bargarh Parliamentary constituency was officially announced.

Meanwhile, Surendra Singh Bhoi, a former Congress MLA from Balangir district, had to wait a couple of days before his candidature for the Balangir LS seat was announced.

The longest wait among five was for Anshuman Mohanty who is now BJD candidate for Kendrapara Lok Sabha seat. Mr. Mohanty had shifted allegiance from Congress to BJD in February. He had to wait more than a month for finalisation of his candidature on BJD ticket.

Apart from these turncoats, the case of Santrupta Mishra, former head of Human Resource of Aditya Birla Group, also sounds interesting. In February, immediately after he joined BJD, he was made party spokesperson. In March, Mr. Mishra was named party’s candidate for Cuttack LS seat.

Priority for Assembly elections

The nomination of six new entrants pointed to the fact that BJD was not focussed for Lok Sabha election by not grooming its own leaders for seats. It is obvious that that entire focus of the regional party was to strengthen its grip in assembly election.

The breakdown in alliance negotiation had apparently caught the regional party unaware, especially for Lok Sabha election where Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s popularity is seen as one of biggest deciding factors in Odisha.

Apart from party hoppers being preferred over BJD’s own workers in those constituencies, the regional party has fielded 12 out of 20 candidates who did not have prior experience of fighting LS election.

Pranab Prakash Das, BJD organising secretary who is second powerful in hierarchy within BJD, was comfortable in fighting assembly election. However, he is now pitted against Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat.

In fact, candidates like Ranjita Sahu and Abinash Samal, BJD candidates for Aska and Dhenkanal seats, are greenhorns, making their political debut in electoral politics.

Senior journalist and political commentator Rabi Das noted that accommodating party switchers has become a national trend in this election.

The BJP, for instance, has swiftly fielded numerous leaders who recently joined the party, he observed. “In the case of the BJD, certain party hoppers promptly received tickets for Lok Sabha seats as it would potentially benefit influential BJD leaders contesting assembly elections in the Lok Sabha jurisdiction,” said the political analyst.

According to Mr. Das, the rationale behind such decisions lies in the belief that candidates who were in opposition just days ago may bring more value to the table compared to the BJD’s own aspirants.

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