Pradeep Pattanayak

With less than 24 hours to go for the Padampur bypoll, the preparations to ensure a free and fair election have reached final stages. 

While voting will start from 7 am and continue till 4 pm, a total of 2, 57,474 voters (1,29,497 male and 1,27,565 female voters) will exercise their franchise at 319 booths. Of them, six are pink booths and 15 are model booths. 

Apart from these, 74 booths fall in the Maoist-hit areas and 78 have been marked as sensitive ones. To maintain law and order situation during the polling, nine companies of Central forces and 41 platoons of forces have been deployed.

Similarly, arrangements for live webcasting have been made in 50 percent of the booths, informed senior officials.

While the Padampur voters are going to choose their legislator, the candidates in the fray are on pins and needles. 

Since the Padampur bypoll comes just a few days after the Dhamnagar bypoll, the political parties, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) are pulling all stops to win the election and exhibiting a height of aggressiveness towards each other.

The BJP has fielded Pradip Purohit who won the seat in 2014 but was defeated by the BJD’s Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha in 2019 by a margin of 5,734 votes. The BJD has fielded Barsha Singh Bariha, daughter of late MLA Bijaya Ranjan Singh Bariha whose demise has necessitated the by-election. The Congress has nominated ex-legislator Satya Bhusan Sahu. 

According to political analysts, the BJD’s reason behind fielding Barsha is to cash in on the sympathy and woo women voters. Yet the conch party is doing its level best to retain the seat as it tasted defeat in Dhamnagar for the first time after 2019. BJP candidate Suryabanshi Suraj won the election with 80,351 votes polled for him. 

The bypoll is so crucial that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the first time after the 2019 general election hit the campaign trail and addressed poll meetings. 

Similarly, the saffron party is also firing on all cylinders to win the election to continue its winning streak. Union Ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Dharmendra Pradhan and Biseswar Tudu and senior leaders did campaigning for their candidates. 

Likewise, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Sarat Pattanayak, AICC general secretary and Odisha in-charge A Chella Kumar, former OPCC presidents Niranjan Patnaik and Jayadev Jena and several senior leaders campaigned for Sahu.

Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer SK Lohani on Sunday briefed journalists about the arrangements for the Padampur bypoll. While elaborating on the arrangements, he said, “There will be total of 1276 polling officers with four at each booth to look after the voting. Besides, 128 officers will be in reserve for emergencies. There will be live webcasting arrangements at 120 booths and 66 booths will be under CCTV camera surveillance.”

Since the silence period is in force, the Collector and SP have been directed to conduct regular checking of vehicles and hotels. Outsiders have been asked to leave the place. Any violation would attract punishment as per the law. Liquor shops are also shut. Restrictions on the exit poll will remain effective till 6 pm on Monday. Of the 319 booths, the names of 306 ones have been changed. Special arrangements have been made for 79 highly sensitive booths. In the event of any EVM developing glitches, it will be replaced within half an hour, he added.


(Reported by OTV Bureau with inputs from IANS)