Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The fate of as many as 10 candidates will be decided when the counting of votes for the high-voltage by-poll for Pipili assembly constituency in Puri district takes place on Sunday amid strict adherence to  Covid-19 protocols. The by-election for this assembly seat had taken place on September 30.

Right from the vote counting centre to the State Chief Election Commissioner Office, preparations are in full swing for the all important day tomorrow.

Odisha Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Lohani said that the counting of votes will start at EVM Warehose in Penthakata, puri from 8 am onwards.

“The counting of votes will begin at 8 am tomorrow amid strict Covid-19 protocols. As many as 14 tables in three halls will be in place for the counting. Postal ballots will be counted in the first 30 minutes while the counting session for the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will begin from 8.30 am,” said Lohani.

“A total of 62 government officials will be deployed for the 25-round counting purpose. A counting assistant, a counting supervisor and a micro observer will be allotted in each table,” he informed.

District administration sources said that top security arrangement will be made around the counting centre to avert any kind of law and order issue.

“A three-tier security arrangement will be in place around the counting centre to prevent any untoward incident during the counting process to ensure smooth and error-free counting of votes,” said Puri Collector Samarth Verma.

As per the State Election Commission sources, candidates could allot their own agents at the counting tables to keep a track on the process of counting.

“The counting will take place amid strict Covid-19 guidelines and all persons appointed for the purpose are fully vaccinated. The video feed of the counting will be splashed on large screens fixed outside the centres for public view. The results of five Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) and EVMs will be matched after the counting process is over,” Lohani said.

“Moreover, round-wise results will be available on the State Election Commission’s website- results.eci.gov.in. The results will also be disseminated at the counting centre after the completion of each round. It will also be available at the Chief Election Commissioner office,” he added.

Though a total of 10 candidates are in fray, the actual contest will triangular-- between BJD candidate Rudra Pratap Maharathy, BJP candidate Ashrit Pattanayak and Biswakesan Harichandan Mohapatra of Congress.

Despite getting goose bumps for the ensuing result, leaders of three main political parties exuded confidence about their victory in the keenly contested by-election.

“We are fully confident that our party candidate will win by a bigger margin than the last election. Voters of Pipili will vote in favour of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s government again and we will come out with flying colours,” said senior BJD leader and School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash.

Meanwhile,Pattanayak said he has full confidence on the voters of Pipili.

“The residents of Pipili will surely vote in favour of BJP for ensuring developmental activities in the constituency,” said Pattanayak.

Congress leaders are also hopeful that the mandate will go in their favour.

“People have openly expressed their dissatisfaction over the mess in governance by the State and Central governments. They are looking for a change and they have backed us fully,” said Congress candidate Mohapatra.

Notably, a voter turnout of 78 per cent was recorded at 348 booths in the by-election on September 30. The by-poll in the Pipili assembly constituency was necessitated following the demise of sitting MLA Pradeep Maharathy in October, 2020.

The by-poll was initially scheduled for April 17 but rescheduled to May 16 after the death of Congress candidate Ajit Mangaraj due to Covid-19. The by-poll was deferred further due to the second wave of the Covid pandemic.

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