Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: The run up to the Bijepur Assembly bypoll is turning out to be quite a wrangle as BJP is now contemplating to rope in former BJD MLA Ashok Panigrahi to contest for the seat.

The development assumes significance owing to the fact that family members of late Congress MLA Subal Sahu, whose death necessitated the bypoll, have already confirmed their plans to join the ruling-BJD.

Bijepur has remained a Congress bastion since 2004 with Sahu winning three consecutive Assembly elections from the constituency.

“BJP has already started its planning and selection of candidates. Ashok Panigarhi had won 19,000 votes as an independent candidate and the party could consider him,” said BJP MLA, Pradip Purohit.

Experts believe that BJP’s strategy is likely to send jitters among BJD echelons as Panigrahi had ate into BJD’s vote share considerably during 2014 elections after he was denied a ticket and contested as an independent candidate.

Though he was defeated in the polls, it affected BJD senior leader Prasanna Acharya’s prospects who lost the assembly seat to Congress’s Sahu.

Panigrahi was subsequently suspended from BJD for anti-party activities.

Even though it is now a win-win situation, Panigrahi has kept his cards close to his chest till now and is yet to reveal his plans of joining any party.

“If BJD has already finalized the candidate, the other option left is BJP and I will think if approached,” said Panigrahi.

Buoyed by the success in the recently concluded panchayat elections in Bijepur where the saffron brigade had won 6 out of 7 Zilla Parishad zones, BJP is keen to maintain the momentum till the 2019 elections.

Congress too has vowed to a give a tough challenge to BJP and BJD.

“After Subal Sahu’s death, we were hoping somebody from his family to join which would have been good for the party. However, the party will try its best to finalize a candidate soon,” said Congress MLA, Prafulla Majhi.

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