Monday, November 29, 1999

Horse-trading, abduction cloud over Bihar, Orissa

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Bhubaneswar, June 17 -- A dash of drama has been infused into the Rajya Sabha elections for three seats in Orissa and five seats in Bihar, where polling will take place on Thursday. While the Opposition Congress and BJP in Orissa had FIRs lodged against the ruling Biju Janata Dal on Wednesday, alleging the party had abducted two of their candidates, in Bihar, the last-minute entry of a Bangalore-based businessman has fuelled fears of horse-trading. In both states the ruling and opposition parties have issued whips to their respective legislators to check cross-voting. In Bhubaneswar, Orissa Congress working president Bhakta Charan Das said the party MLA from Lanjigarh, Sibaji Majhi, was abducted on Tuesday evening by "some people backed by the BJD" in Khurda town, 30 km from the state capital. Similarly, state BJP vice-president Ashok Sahu claimed Bhimsen Choudhury, the party MLA from Banai, was abducted by BJD men on Tuesday and was confined in a house near the airport. Sahu told HT, "We have mentioned the names of BJD MLA Arun Kumar Sahu and another BJD man, Kusha Apat, in our FIR as being behind the abduction." The charges were, however, dismissed by senior BJD leader Raghunath Mohanty as being "politically motivated". The BJD, which has fielded three candidates, is poised to win two seats comfortably but is short of 10 votes for the third. The Bangalore link With Independent candidate BG Uday, a Bangalore-based businessman, entering the fray in Bihar, the polls are set to expose the internal wranglings in the ruling NDA and opposition RJD-Lok Janshakti Party combine. Uday's entry as the sixth candidate against five vacant seats has forced strategists in the ruling NDA and opposition RJD-LJP camps to keep a close watch on fence sitters, as it has fuelled speculation of horse-trading.

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