The process of filing nominations for bypoll in Bijepur Assembly constituency in Odisha began here, after a gazette notification was issued by the Election Commission today. The bypoll is being considered as an acid test for the three major political parties in the state — BJD, BJP and Congress — ahead of the Assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections, due next year. Voting for the bypoll in Bijepur, which was necessitated following the death of Congress MLA Subal Sahu in August last, is scheduled to be held on February 24. The filing of nominations would continue till February 6, state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) D N Gupta said. While scrutiny of the nomination papers would be held on February 7, the last date for withdrawal of candidature is February 9, he said. Counting of votes is scheduled to be held on February 28. While the BJD and BJP have declared their candidates for the bypoll, the Congress is yet to announce its nominee for Bijepur, which has been its traditional bastion.
The ruling BJD has fielded Rita Sahu, wife of late Subal Sahu and the BJP has announced Ashok Panigrahi as its party candidate. Congress has constituted a committee, headed by veteran leader and former Chief Minister Hemananda Biswal, to select its candidate. Arrangements have been made for use of VVPAT (Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail) machine along with EVMs during the bypoll, a senior official said. All booths in Bijepur assembly segment will have VVPATs, which will release paper slips for the voters. That will act as a receipt and confirm the symbol they have voted for, he said.