BJD retains Pipili assembly constituency in Odisha, notches up bigger margin
Biju Janata Dal’s electoral juggernaut continued to roll after the party won the bypolls to the Pipili assembly constituency in Puri district on Sunday signifying the party’s readiness to take on its opponent BJP in next year’s panchayat and urban body polls.
Bypolls in Pipili were held on September 30, with a record 78 per cent of the 2.29 lakh voters in the largely rural constituency flocking to the polling booths amid Covid-19 protocol.
Rudra Pratap Maharathy, the 32-year-old son of former BJD minister Pradip Maharathy who won the seat seven times, defeated his nearest BJP rival Ashrit Patnaik by nearly 21,000 votes, said returning officer Samarth Verma. The winning margin in the bypoll was higher than the 2019 assembly poll.
Biswokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra of Congress forfeited his security deposit as he could not poll the mandatory 1/6th of the total votes polled fuelling demands of resignation of PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik.
An elated Rudra Pratap Maharathy said after the demise of his father, the people of Delang-Pipili were waiting for an MLA for around one year. “The voters are my malik (Lord) and I am their sevak (servant). I am not here for celebration; rather I will focus on work. My priority will be to complete the pending work initiated by my late father and will reach out to common people to address their issues,” said Maharathy.
Odisha education minister Samir Ranjan Dash said the victory has now proved that the charisma of people’s CM Naveen Patnaik is still intact among the masses due to his pro-people policies.
Bypolls to the picturesque assembly constituency was required after its sitting BJD MLA Pradip Maharathy succumbed to Covid-19 in October 2020. The bypoll scheduled on April 17 had to be postponed after the demise of Congress candidate Ajit Mangaraj just three days before the election was due to happen. The bypoll was again rescheduled to May 16 after Congress fielded Bishwokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra as their candidate. However, on May 4, the Election Commission deferred the bypolls as the state went into Covid-19 lockdown amid rising cases till last month, when the EC decided to hold the election on September 30.
BJD had fielded deceased MLA Pradip Maharathy’s son Rudra Pratap Maharathy, an administrative officer in a city-based management institute while BJP had fielded Asrit Pattanayak who contested unsuccessfully against Pradip Maharathy in the 2019 assembly polls. Congress nominated Biswokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra, an advocate and former district president of Congress Seval Dal.
The Pipili bypoll victory is significant for BJD as this was the first major election in which the party candidate won despite Naveen Patnaik not campaigning. It is also the last major polls ahead of the panchayat polls scheduled in February next year and urban body polls due to be held soon after. Last year, the BJD had won the bye-election to two assembly constituencies of Balasore Sadar and Tirtol following the death of the sitting MLAs there.
BJD had stationed at least a dozen ministers and two dozen MLAs in the constituency at the panchayat level to woo the voters. The BJP campaign was led by Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan and party spokesperson Sambit Patra. The Congress campaign was led by OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik.