The BJP Friday named Ashwini Baishnab, a former bureaucrat, as its candidate for the Rajya Sabha bypolls in Odisha, with the state's ruling Biju Janata Dal also announcing its support to him, making his victory virtually certain.
The development indicates growing warm vibes between the two parties after the BJP ran a strong campaign against the BJD in the recent Lok Sabha and assembly polls, emerging as the main challenger to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's party.
"The party has decided that Ashwini Baishnab will be the Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate for the upcoming bypolls to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha," the BJP said.
Minutes later, Patnaik told reporters in the state that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah had spoken to him and his party will back Baishnab.
"The Prime Minister spoke to me as did the Home Minister. We (BJD) will support the candidature of Ashwini Baishnab, who was the private secretary of Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he was the Prime Minister," said Patnaik.
BJD IT Cell Chairman Amar Patnaik and spokesperson Sasmit Patra are the party's other two nominees for the Upper House of Parliament.
With 112 members in the 146-seat state assembly, the BJD was in a position to win the bypolls to all three seats. The BJP has 23 seats.
Patnaik, whose party was a BJP ally during the Vajpayee era, had also served as a minister in that government before he became the state's chief minister in 2000.
The polling will be held on July 5 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. while the counting of votes will take place at 5 p.m. the same day.
Three seats had fallen vacant after Achyuta Samanta, Pratap Keshari Deb and Soumya Ranjan Patnaik were elected to Lok Sabha and Assembly in the recently held elections.
While Samanta was elected from Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat, Deb and Patnaik were elected from Aul and Khandapada Assembly segments.
Samanta and Patnaik's term in the Upper House was to end in April, 2024 while Deb's term in the Rajya Sabha was till July, 2022.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)