The ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha on Wednesday announced its support for the candidature of Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw from the state in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls, reported PTI.

Three Rajya Sabha seats from Odisha will be vacated at the end of April, with the terms of Vaishnaw, along with the Biju Janata Dal’s Amar Patnaik and Prashanta Nanda, coming to an end.

On Tuesday, Biju Janata Dal candidates Debashish Samantaray and Subhasish Khuntia filed their nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha election, to be held on February 27, while the party kept the third seat vacant.

The Bharatiya Janata Party named the minister its Rajya Sabha candidate from the state on Wednesday.

Minutes later, the Biju Janata Dal, led by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, extended its support for Vaishnaw citing “the larger interest of the state’s railways and telecom development”.

Vaishnaw was elected to the Upper House of Parliament in 2019 with the Biju Janata Dal’s support despite the BJP’s lack of strength in the state Assembly.

He reached Bhubaneswar on Wednesday and is expected to file his nomination on Thursday, the last date for doing so.

“I am a disciplined worker of the Bharatiya Janata Party and it is the party which takes all the decisions regarding my public life,” Vaishnaw said, according to IANS. “I am grateful to Prime Minister Modi and the party leadership for giving me another opportunity to serve.”

The Congress’ Odisha unit chief Ajoy Kumar criticised both the Biju Janata Dal and the BJP for their partnership. “Now the Odias understand why the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate never conducted a raid on the chief minister and his close aide Mr [VK] Pandian even though the state witnessed ‘massive scams’,” Kumar said in a post on social media.