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Vikash Sharma

Kendrapara: An estimated 71 per cent of the over 2.44 lakh voters exercised their franchise on Saturday amidst tight security during the election to Patkura Assembly seat, where polling had been postponed twice in past two months. The polling was peaceful and brisk despite intermittent drizzling and overcast skies.

State Chief Election Commissioner Surendra Kumar informed that the polling percentage might rise since the voters who have already taken receipt before 6 PM would be allowed to exercise their franchise and after all of them cast their votes, polling would conclude.

As per latest reports, voting was affected in booth no.278 due to technical glitches in the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Similarly, voting was delayed in three other booths--booth No. 132 (Janra Balimula), booth No. 128 (Teheda) & booth No. 300 (Bedari) due to technical glitches in EVMs. Voting was also affected at booth No. 307 in Kinilo following a scuffle between polling agent and presiding officer over voter slips.

Elaborate arrangements were made for the conduct of the polls in a free and fair manner. Informing about the detail arrangements, CEO Kumar said, "Four companies of Central Paramilitary Forces were deployed during the election to maintain law and order in 71 high-sensitive booths of the Assembly constituency after several political parties had flagged concerns over booth rigging possibilities. Similarly 55 platoons of State Armed Police were also deployed for the poll."

Web casting was carried out in 40 booths while micro observers were also deployed in 52 booths. Videography was also conducted in 15 booths, informed Kumar.

The administration also made arrangements for the convenience for elderly persons and the physically challenged by pressing into service auto rickshaws in the 52 gram panchayats under the constituency in accordance with Election Commission guidelines. On the declaration of results, the CEO said that this time counting of votes is likely to be faster because 18 counters have been set up for the process.

However, later in the day after the polling concluded, tension erupted during deposit of VVPAT machines in the strongroom at Kendrapara College. During the incident, the polling officer was allegedly attacked. The polling officer, Bichitra Kumar Das sustained critical injuries after he was attacked by a mob.

"We caught the polling officer while opening the VVPAT machine and he was thrashed. District Collector has assured to look into the matter," said a local resident.

"It's a conspiracy to see that BJP candidate Bijay Mohapatra is defeated in the polls," said another agitator.

However, the situation came under control after Administrative officers in presence of officers from Election Commission, presiding officer and polling agent verified the EVM and VVPAT machines were checked.

District collector and SP are monitoring the developments to prevent any unto ward incident. Adequate security personnel have been deployed at the spot to maintain law and order.

Polling in Patkura Assembly seat was scheduled on April 29, but could not take place because of the death of BJD candidate Bed PrakashAgarwal on April 20. The ECI then fixed May 19 as the new date for the polls in Patkura but further postponed it due to Cyclone Fani which hit the state on May 3.

While there are 10 candidates in the fray, it is likely to be a straight fight between the BJD and the BJP. The Congress has fielded Jayanta Kumar Mohanty.

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