In pics: Bijepur BJD in celebration mood

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BJD candidate Rita Sahu has surged ahead in the 20th round of counting. Meanwhile, the Congress was replaced as the prime opposition by the BJP.

A total of 14 tables have been kept in place for counting of votes with as many as 21 rounds of count likely to be conducted.

"I am humbled by love and trust of the people of Bijepur for giving BJD a massive victory". BJD lives in the hearts of the people of #Odisha. "Our people are peace loving and have rejected the politics of hatred and violence", said Mr Patnaik. We will continue our efforts to build a prosperous and empowered Odisha. "Jai Jagannath", he tweeted.

The clean image of the Chief Minister and the State government's various developmental works as well as her late husband Subal Sahu's popularity helped her win the bypoll, Ms. Sahu told presspersons.

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"We need to do our introspection over the defeat in the Bijepur bypoll and move forward", said Mr Singhdeo. "The Congress votes got diverted towards the BJD". Besides, the amount of votes in our support has increased by a huge margin as compared to the previous polls.

"We are hopeful that BJD candidate will win by a handsome margin, but it is very hard to assess the number of votes", he said. "The BJD had distributed black money among the voters to influence them", he alleged. CM Naveen Patnaik had announced his decision to make Rita Sahu the BJD candidate after the party's vice-president Prasanna Acharya made a statement that the party was yet to take a decision on the issue. On the other hand, BJP and Congress offices wore a deserted look.

Odisha Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik also participated in the celebrations. Though the seat was represented by Congress in the past three terms, and the byelection was necessitated by death of sitting Congress MLA Subal Sahu on August 22, Congress nominee Pranay Sahu was a distant third till 11 am by getting less than 3000 votes. Rita was inducted into BJD in September 23, last year. "Odisha is a peaceful state; the people will not stand for violence in a democracy", he said in an apparent dig at the BJP, which has sent many of its Union ministers to Odisha since last year to change the political narrative in the state that has been ruled by the BJD for the past 17 years. The high voltage fight though is primarily being seen as a triangular fight between BJD, BJP and Congress. There was also an attack on state Labour Minister Sushant Singh's brother Subrat Singh in which he was critically injured and his driver killed. Amid mudslinging and trading charges of the ruling party channelizing its administrative resources to its advantage, the electorates cast their franchise on February 24. The BJD's victory in the Bijepur assembly bypoll, with a record margin, created the impression that the party can reverse the setback it suffered in rural elections in next year's general and assembly polls.

For the Congress, the defeat was disgraceful as it comes after three consecutive wins in the constituency and the party managed to get only around 10,000 votes.

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