Sharmili Mallick

Sporadic incidents of poll violence, booth rigging and loot of ballot boxes continued at several places of Odisha during the third phase of panchayat elections on Sunday.

In an incident of blatant booth capturing, a zilla Parishad candidate allegedly cast multiple votes on a particular symbol after forcibly entering booth no- 4 in Badagallo school under Tihidi Block of Bhadrak district.

The woman, who is identified as Zilla Parishad Candidate Ritanjali Patra, could be seen in a video, snatching the ballot papers from several voters and casting all the votes herself to ensure victory for her father-in-law Surendra Nayak who is contesting as a sarpanch candidate.

Though the presiding officer opposed the woman’s action, she did not pay any heed to the poll official and threatened him. In the video which has gone viral on social media, the presiding officer was also seen pleading with police officials engaged in duty outside the booth to come to his aid.

The concerned woman also stopped a video journalist from recording any video in and outside the booth before warning him to leave the place at once. She could also be seen issuing open threats to the journalists. 

She is also said to have even restricted a Zilla Parishad candidate from voting and forced her to return.

Surprisingly, the entire incident reportedly took place in the presence of Jajpur Additional Superintendent of Police (SP) Jatin Panda.

On the other hand, upset over the woman’s gooinism, many voters, who came to the booth to exercise their franchise left without casting their votes.

Jharani Jena, the Zilla Parishad candidate who was barred from voting, blamed the police for indirectly cooperating with the poll rule violating woman by acting as mere spectators.

However, Jajpur ASP Jatin Panda refuted the incident of booth capturing and claimed that polling was held in smooth and fair manner in Tihidi block of the district.

“One police officer was deployed in each booth. We had identified sensitive booths and engaged adequate police officers, armed and APR forces. A mobile police party was also engaged to tour booth-wise and maintain law and order," clarified Panda.