Ramakanta Biswas

Continuing the winning streak, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) clinched the by-election to Pipili assembly constituency in Puri district. Party candidate Rudra Pratap Maharathy trounced his nearest rival and BJP’s Ashrit Pattanayak by a margin of 20,916 votes. 

Rudra Pratap polled 96,972 (53.6 per cent) votes while BJP’s Ashrit Pattanayak garnered 76,056 (42.04 per cent) votes. Congress candidate Bishwokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra emerged distant third and polled 4,261 votes, a meagre vote share of 2.36 per cent.

Briefing media after the end of counting process, Chief Electoral Officer of Odisha, Sushil Kumar Lohani said, “A total of 1,80,930 votes including 893 postal ballots were counted. A total of 136 postal ballots were rejected due to various reasons.”

“As per the counting, BJD’s Rudra Pratap Maharathy defeated his nearest rival, BJP’s Ashrit Pattanayak by 20,916 votes. However, the final results will be officially announced by the returning officer,” Lohani added. 

Later, Puri Additional District Magistrate–cum–returning officer, Pradip Kumar Sahoo declared the results of the by-election conducted under Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

“I Pradeep Kumar Sahoo, returning officer, declare that Rudra Pratap Maharathy, sponsored by the Biju Janata Dal has been duly elected to fill the vacancy caused in that House,” Sahoo said. 

As per the statement of the returning officer, the constituency has 230319 electors while 180099 valid votes were polled. A total of 831 votes were recorded in None of the Above (NOTA) and 136 votes were rejected. 

The crucial bypoll was necessitated following the demise of sitting BJD MLA Pradeep Maharathy in October last year at the age of 65 at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar.

After the death of the seven-time MLA, there were speculations that the BJD will pick one of his family members for the seat. While Maharathy’s wife had also expressed interest to represented the constituency, the party reposed hope in his son Rudra Pratap.

Rudra Pratap maintained lead from the first rounds of counting and defeated the BJP candidates by a huge margin. In 2019 assembly election, BJP candidate Ashrit had lost to BJD by over 15,000 votes. The BJD candidate increased the winning margin this time by defeating the BJP by 20,916 votes. 

On the other hand, the Congress which had hoped to perform better than last time by fielding Bishwokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra scored poorly in the by-election. 

Congress’ first pick for the bypoll, Ajit Mangaraj had succumbed due to COVID-19 complications, prompting the ECI to defer the bypoll. The by-poll was deferred further on account of the second wave of the Covid pandemic.

Soon after the results were declared, BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik thanked the voters of Pipili for extending support to party candidate Rudra Pratap Maharathy. He also congratulated all the party workers and leaders.