Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: With the State Election Commission expediting preparations, speculations of an early-poll are gathering steam.

A month after seeking information on expenses during the upcoming elections from the district electoral officers, the Odisha Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has issued a directive for setting up storehouses for safekeeping of EVMs and VVPAT machines for which Rs 124.32 crore has been allocated.

Moreover, following approval from the Chief Election Commission (CEC) to procure ballot machines, the CEO has also expedited measures to bring in as many as 96,000 EVMs from other states like UP, West Bengal, Assam, MP, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

"As per CEC directions, we are conducting booth rationalisation programme from May 15 under which each of the 30 districts will be assessed for election readiness and processes like door-to-door verification of voters and inclusion of new voters will be conducted in a routine way. We had asked the administration of all districts to submit their proposals in this regard and after the programme is completed by July 27, we will seek CEC's approval," said Assistant CEO, Kashinath Sahu.

In the meantime, official sources said that as many as 12,200 VVPAT machines have already reached Odisha and after the required number of ballot machines reach the state, government officials will be imparted training.

Meanwhile, with preparations by the poll panel in full swing, political parties are also bracing up. Sources said more focus is being laid on ticket distribution.

"We are going to announce more than 50 candidates as early as August," said Congress leader, Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

"The BJP has begun candidate selection process with leaders in charge of all the 147 assembly constituencies being given responsibility to select candidates," said BJP leader, Pradeep Purohit.

Toeing on similar lines, the BJD also said that it has already kick-started the candidate selection process for the upcoming elections.