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Pradeep Pattanayak

With the campaigning for the urban polls across Odisha reaching the last leg, candidates belonging to various political parties as well as independents in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC), Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BeMC) and 106 municipalities across the State have shifted their entire focus on slum clusters. 

Since the campaigning will come to an end on Tuesday evening, the candidates appear to be in no mood to let the crucial hours go waste and are going out of their ways to woo the slum dwellers. 

If the past trend is anything to by, in municipal areas, the number of educated voters turning up to cast their votes has always been dismal. On the contrary, the slum dwellers take part in the poll enthusiastically. 

This is perhaps why the slum dwellers are always considered to be the primary vote banks for all parties. Notably, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Berhampur have over 400, nearly 250 and around 150 slums, respectively. 

In order to attract the voters living in slums, all the three major political parties-the BJD, BJP and Congress-have intensified their door-to-door campaigning in those pockets, making people aware of their agenda for their development promises. 

The Conch party is going to slum dwellers with Jaga Mission as its main poll issue and making people aware of the basic facilities the party has been making available to them. The Saffron party is seeking votes by pointing out how the ruling party has failed in mitigating the sufferings of the slum inhabitants. 

And the grand old Congress party is not lagging behind in pulling its shocks during the last phase of the campaigning. The party’s leaders and candidates are making rounds of the slums with promises that they would fix their problems if they were voted to power. 

State general secretary of BJP, Golak Mohapatra, said, “The BJD has betrayed the slum dwellers in every front. The party has even failed in providing them with minimum basic facilities. Now, the party leaders are trying to get their votes by applying coercion and intimidation tactics.”

Sharing views of Mahapatra, Congress spokesperson Nishikant Mishra said the BJD is trying to win the slum dwellers by listing out what it has done for them and what they will do in the coming days. 

On the other hand, the vice president of BJD, Debi Prasad Mishra has a different take. “The slum dwellers love Naveen Patnaik. They love him because it is his government which has taken steps to provide them with basic facilities,” Mishra maintained. 

On March 24, voting will begin in 1,837 Wards from 8:00 am and continue till 5pm. A total of 40,55,053 voters will exercise their franchise at 4,373 booths.  

“To ensure peaceful polling, 195 platoons of police force will be deployed across the State,” informed Odisha State Election Commissioner Aditya Prasad Padhi. 

Sources close to the OSEC said 60 platoons of police force will be deployed in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Berhampur Municipal Corporations. That apart, 300 mobile parties will also be pressed into service. For emergency, one or two police platoons will be kept in reserve in each district. 

A total of 22,000 polling staff will be engaged to manage the polling. Each booth will have two EVMs-one for Mayor/Chairman and one for Corporator/Councillor.

Similarly, each municipality will have a model and a pink booth and each corporation will have five model and five pink booths. 

For the first time, the voters will also have ‘NOTA’ option, this election. 

The counting will begin from 8 am on March 26.

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