Bhubaneswar: Ama Odisha Party (AOP) president Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and eminent education entrepreneur Achyuta Samanta joined the ruling Biju Janata Dal in the presence of party supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here on Wednesday, making it almost clear that both would be picked as BJD candidates for the ensuing Rajya Sabha elections.
Naveen welcomed both of them to the party and said he would make a formal announcement regarding the RS polls at 5 pm.
Putting months-long speculation to rest, Naveen announced Soumya’s entry into the BJD at a ‘joining programme’ organized at Naveen Niwas. “The AOP in a way has merged with the BJD. I have joined the BJD unconditionally and would continue my struggle for recovering the money of chit fund depositors and securing the rights of farmers,” said Soumya, a former MP. He is also Editor of leading Odia daily Sambad and promoter of Eastern Media Private Limited which has Kanak News television channel in its stable. Soumya had launched AOP in 2013 after being ousted from the Congress; he had previously worked with the BJP and the NCP.
Soumya’s entry into BJD can be viewed as a major political development in Odisha as for the first time the two most influential Patnaik families (Biju Patnaik and J B Patnaik) have joined hands; both families have ruled the state for around 37 years since 1980. Naveen’s illustrious father and former CM Biju Patnaik and former CM J B Patnaik had shared a long political rivalry. But with the induction of Soumya, who is JB’s son-in-law, into the BJD a new chapter has been added to the eastern state’s political history.
By joining the BJD Samanta, who enjoys international repute for being the founder of KiiT University and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), has made his political debut. “I would continue to serve the people of Odisha,” he told mediapersons at Naveen Niwas where a host of ministers and senior BJD leaders were present.
Like Soumya, Samanta also has stakes in the media (24×7 Odia news channel Kalinga TV) and is expected to make it to the Upper House, for which elections will be held on March 23. Three RS seats from Odisha have fallen vacant as the terms of Dilip Tirkey, A U Singhdeo and A V Swamy are due to end soon.
BJD sources said the third party nomination could go a party leader with the names of Prashant Nanda, Bimbadhar Kuanr, Rabi Nanda and Anup Sai doing the rounds.