Two out of four nominations have an Odisha connection, a state where the BJP is trying to expand its base to dislodge the ruling BJD.

New Delhi: RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha, former BJP MP Ram Shakal, classical dancer Sonal Mansingh and sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra are the four people who were nominated to Rajya Sabha by President Ram Nath Kovind Saturday.

The ruling dispensation has nominated Ram Shakal, a Dalit leader, to the Rajya Sabha at a time when talks are going on about the BSP and the SP joining hands with Congress to put up a united opposition against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in 2019 general elections.

The other two nominees have an Odisha connection. Sonal Mansingh, a renowned Odissi dancer, was married to former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, who is from Odisha. The couple divorced later. Raghunath Mahapatra, who is also from Odisha, has worked on the beautification of the Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri. Their nominations assume significance given the BJP is seeking to expand its base in Odisha in order to dislodge the ruling BJD.

Rakesh Sinha: A widely read author, Rakesh Sinha is the founder and honorary director of the Delhi-based think-tank, India Policy Foundation. He is also the  biographer of RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar. A professor of Motilal Nehru College of Delhi University, he is also currently a member of the Indian Council of Social Science Research. He is a regular columnist in a range of newspapers.

Ram Shakal: A former BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, Ram Shakal has devoted his life for the welfare and well-being of the Dalit community. A farmer leader, he is widely respected for championing the cause of farmers, labourers and migrants. He represented Robertsganj constituency of Uttar Pradesh in Parliament three times.

Raghunath Mohapatra: He is an internationally renowned authority on stone carving. Practising since 1959, he has trained over 2,000 students. He has contributed to the preservation of traditional sculpture and ancient monuments, and has worked on the beautification of the Sri Jagannath Temple, Puri. His famous works include a 6-ft high statue of the Sun God carved in grey sandstone, in the Central Hall of Parliament; and the Wooden Buddha, Buddha Temple, Paris.

Sonal Mansingh: Born in Mumbai, Mansingh is among foremost exponents of Indian Classical Dance. She has been performing Bharatnatyam and Odissi for over six decades. She is also a well-known choreographer, teacher, orator and social activist. She founded the Centre for Indian Classical Dances, in Delhi in 1977. She was married to former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, who is from Odisha. The couple decided to divorce later.

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