Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Bhubaneswar: Hectic lobbying has started within the ruling BJD for ticket for the forthcoming by-poll to the Pipili Assembly constituency which is scheduled to be held on April 17.

It is however, assumed that a member of the family of former minister and ex-MLA from the constituency Pradeep Maharathy is likely to be nominated by the party to contest. Pratibha Maharathy, wife of Maharathy and his son, Rudra Pratap Maharathy are strong contenders for the ticket, sources said.

Several senior leaders of the party including the family members of the late minister have urged the party leadership to select a Maharathy family member as the BJD candidate.

"Rudra Pratap, the son of the late minister, should be the BJD candidate for  the Pipili by-poll. As panchayat  and civic body polls are ahead, it's better to give ticket to a youth to strengthen the party's positions in the region," said Pranay Maharathy, younger brother of the former Pipili MLA.

However, Pratap Keshari Dev, election observer of BJD for the Assembly Constituency, clarified that party supremo Naveen Patnaik will take the final decision on allotment of the ticket.

"The party has galvanised its organisational works in the constituency since the last 20-25 days. We are reviewing the feedback of the people from ground zero. The party will announce its candidate for the seat soon," said Dev.

Meanwhile, Opposition BJP and Congress are reportedly on the verge of finalising their candidates and claimed to be fully prepared for the ensuing battle.  According to party sources, the name of their candidates would be announced after consultation with the Central leadership.

"People have already decided whom to vote in the upcoming election. The wise voters of Pipili will vote for the right party and candidate. We are confident that our party will win the seat," said BJP’s Ashrit Patnaik, who was pitted against Maharathy in the last Assembly elections and lost the polls by a narrow margin of around 9,000 votes.

Congress is also hopeful for a comeback in the by-poll.

"We will field a new face for the by-poll. We have full confidence on the people of this constituency and are hopeful that they will vote for Congress," said senior party leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

Meanwhile. Election Commission of Odisha stated that the by-poll will be conducted in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocol.

"We have increased the number of booths from 271 to 348 to ensure strict enforcement of Covid-19 guidelines during the voting. Only thousand voters will be allowed in a booth to cast their franchises," said SK Lohani, Chief Electoral Officer of Odisha.