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Pradeep Pattanayak

The right of secrecy of the elector at polling booth was allegedly breached in Sarua village under Begunia block in Khordha district during the second phase of the Panchayat elections on Friday. 

The alleged violation was carried out by none other than the presiding officer. Arun Kumar Parida, the presiding officer at booth no-VI set up in Sarua School, was allegedly seen standing close to the voting space, looking into the cabin as voters were exercising their franchise. He was even seen standing by the voters in the cabin and casting votes on their behalf. 

When asked if his action was fair, Parida, while brushing aside allegations, said he was just helping out the elderly voters. “We presiding officers have been asked to assist those who seek assistance, but only after they cast their votes. And I was only doing that much. I didn’t see who they voted, not even their ballot paper,” claimed Parida.  

However, following complaints over Parida’s conduct, another layer of cloth (screen) was added to the voter’s cabin.    

In another incident, a ballot paper was found to have already been stamped against a particular symbol before it was used by a voter at booth no-VII in Dohana Panchayat under Nandahandi Block in Nabarangpur district. The incident triggered tension and the Nabarangpur police had a tough time in controlling the enraged crowd. 

While the angry villagers claimed that the presiding officer deployed at the said booth had deliberately carried out pre-stamping of the ballot papers at the behest of a particular party, the presiding officer sought to dismiss the allegations. 

“When I was about to put the stamp on a particular symbol to choose a Sarpanch candidate, I found the ballot paper had already been stamped. It was stamped against fish symbol,” alleged Anup Tripathy, a voter. 

“I immediately drew the attention of the officials present at the booth. But their answers surprised me. They said that the ballot papers had already been stamped. Upon verification I found their claims true,” added Tripathy. 

Sobhaprava Patra, the presiding officer, clarified, “Since the ballot papers are thin, the ink of a ballot paper somehow seeped through it and stained the ballot paper below in the bunch.”

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