Two BJD candidates and a BJP nominee supported by the regional party were on Friday elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha in the by-elections. Returning Officer B P Mishra declared Biju Janata Dal’s Amar Patnaik and Sasmit Patra and Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Ashwini Vaishnav elected to the Rajya Sabha. The BJD had supported Vaishnav.
The by-polls were conducted to the three vacant seats after BJD’s Achyuta Samanta, Pratap Keshari Deb and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik resigned from the Rajya Sabha following their election to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly. Amar Patnaik is BJD’s IT cell chairman and spokesperson while Sasmit Patra too is a spokesperson of the regional party. Vaishnav had joined politics only after his candidature was announced by the saffron party.
Patra has been elected to the Rajya Sabha in place of PK Deb, who has been elected to the State Assembly. His tenure as RS member will be for three years till 2022. Amar Patnaik and Vaishnav have been elected in place of Samanta and S R Patnaik respectively. Both of them will be RS members for five years till 2024.
Apart from being an ex -IAS officer of the Odisha cadre, he had also served as the private secretary to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His candidature had become controversial after the ruling BJD extended its support to him as a BJP nominee.
Opposition Congress has also accused Vaishnav of having links with illegal mining activities and the DQ (discretionary quota) scam in Odisha. Congress leader Narasingha Mishra has demanded a clarification from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on whether the state vigilance wing has exonerated Vaishnav from the DQ scam.
Amar Patnaik after his election said, “I will raise issues like making natural calamity a criterion for according special category status to Odisha and neglect towards the state in the railway sector”. Patra said he would like to work for improvement of banking and telecommunication sectors in the state.”I have experience in working both in the state and the Centre. I will utilise all my experiences for the development of Odisha,” said Vaishnav.