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Two senior BJP leaders join BJD ahead of polls

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NewsDrum Desk
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Bhubaneswar, Apr 3 (PTI) Odisha BJP vice-president Bhrugu Baxipatra and saffron party’s Cuttack district president Prakash Behera on Wednesday joined the ruling BJD ahead of the Lok Sabha and Odisha assembly polls.

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While Baxipatra had resigned from the saffron party earlier during the day, Behera quit the BJP on March 29.

Speculations are rife that the BJD will nominate Baxipatra for Berhampur Lok Sabha seat and Behera for Salepur, where they were unsuccessful as BJP candidates in 2019.

Baxipatra, who officially joined the BJD at the party's headquarters, Sankha Bhawan, was welcomed by BJD's Berhampur MP Chandrasekhar Sahu.

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Baxipatra decided to leave the BJP after the party nominated MLA Pradeep Panigrahy, who had been expelled by the BJD, for the Berhampur seat.

Meanwhile, BJD appointed Sahu, the incumbent MP, as its vice-president and chairman of the manifesto committee.

The party has not yet announced the names of other members of the committee that will be responsible for preparing the manifesto for the simultaneous elections to the 147-member assembly and the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

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Sahu's appointment is being seen as a move to accommodate him in case Baxipatra gets nominated from Berhampur seat.

The BJD has so far announced candidates for 15 of the state's 21 Lok Sabha seats. Besides Berhampur, the other seats are Bolangir, Bargarh, Keonjhar, Bhadrak and Balasore.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, Baxipatra had secured 3.49 lakh votes but lost to Sahu by a margin of around 94,000.

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Former Salepur MLA Prakash Behera has also joined the BJD. He was formally inducted into the regional party in the presence of senior BJD leader Manas Mangaraj.

Behera, who previously won the Salepur seat in 2014 on a Congress ticket, joined the BJP ahead of the 2019 elections and contested again from the same constituency.

However, he was defeated by BJD’s Prashant Behera in the election.

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In a related development, Rohit Joseph Tirkey, son of prominent tribal tribal leader George Tirkey, also joined the BJD. He had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 elections from Biramitrapur Assembly constituency in Sundergarh district on a Congress ticket.

The BJD, which has announced MLA candidates for 72 seats, is yet to pick it nominees for Biramitrapur and Salepur. Rohit’s father is a four-time Biramitrapur MLA and he was with the BJD from 2002 to 2006.

George had previously won twice from Birmitrapur, first in 1995 and then in 2000, on a JMM ticket.

After resigning from the BJD, he secured victory from Birmitrapur in 2009 as an Independent candidate. Subsequently, he founded his own political party, Samta Kranti Dal, in 2014, and successfully won from Birmitrapur for the fourth time. He briefly rejoined the JMM before eventually joining the Congress party in 2018.

Both father and son were defeated from Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat and Birmitrapur assembly segment in 2019. PTI AAM SOM AAM MNB

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