Putting an end to speculation over who will be the candidate of the ruling Biju Janata Dal to contest the March 18 by-election in Athgarh Assembly constituency, Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik on Monday announced that former Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain will be his party's nominee for the bypoll.

Mr. Patnaik made the announcement before the media after holding a meeting with Mr. Swain at his residence. The by-election was necessitated following the December 9 Supreme Court order upholding the last year's High Court order setting aside the election of Ramesh Rout to the seat in the 2009 Assembly polls.

As per the schedule announced by the Election Commission of India, formal notification for the by-election will be issued on February 22 and nomination papers will be accepted till February 29. The scrutiny of the nomination papers will be done on March 1 and candidates willing to withdraw their nomination papers can do so till March 3. The polling will be conducted from 8 am to 5 pm on March 18 and the counting of votes will take place on March 21.

Mr. Swain had not able to contest the poll in 2009 after his nomination paper that he had filed as BJD's official candidate was rejected by the Returning Officer. Mr. Rout, who had filed his nomination paper as an independent candidate, had won the poll with the BJD's support.

Meanwhile, the supporters of Mr. Swain, who represented Athgarh in the State Assembly four times in the past, celebrated as the news spread about the Chief Minister's announcement about their leader's candidature for the by-election.