Bhubaneswar: Election in a majority of constituencies in Odisha have largely remained peaceful over the years since independence. There are a few exceptions, however, with Kendrpada, Pipili, Jagatsinghpur, parts of Ganjam, and a couple of constituencies in western Odisha having witnessed pre as well as post-poll violence in the past.
Among these, Pipili has been the hotbed of political rivalry and election-related violence. Though Pipili has remained a political bastion of Biju Janata Dal over the last two decades, with late Pradeep Maharathy being at the helm, during the 90s, his arch-rival Yudhistir Samantray yielded extensive clout in the region.
The arch-rivalry between Samantray and Maharathy had turned Pipili into a hotbed of political violence during the late 80s and 90s. Though the Congress strongman Samantray won the Assembly elections once in 1995 during former CM JB Patnaik’s reign, he remained the firebrand face of the party and continued to lock horns with Mahararthy, defiantly.
The constituency, bordering Puri and Bhubaneswar has witnessed bitterly violent and armed tussles between the two groups in the past. However, with BJD’s dominance under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik during the last 20 years, Congress, and other opposition outfits have been decimated in Pipili-Delang region.
Maharathy has been elected to Odisha Legislative Assembly from Pipili seven times since 1985 and has also been an influential Minister in the BJD Government. The Pipili strongman’s death due to COVID-19 in October 2020 necessitated the bye-elections which were delayed due to the second wave of the pandemic.
The counting of votes for Pipili bypoll is underway and the fate of the 10 candidates in the fray will be known by Sunday evening. For BJP, Ashrit Patnaik is contesting the polls, while Congress is being represented by Bishwokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra.
Maharathy’s son Rudra Pratap remains the dominant player banking on his father’s legacy. Results of the vote count in the first phase reflected the sway towards BJD and it is apparent that Pipili bypoll will be a clean sweep for the late Minister’s son.
Their bete-noire Yudhistir Samantray has quit Congress over internal differences in 2019 while his son Priyabrat joined BJD in April this year. The opposition in terms of BJP is running second at a difference of 4000+ votes from the ruling BJD, while Congress remains a distant third with 1,000+ votes.