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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Brisk polling was recorded in Odisha on Thursday with around 70 per cent of the over 60 lakh electorate casting their votes in four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly constituencies, preliminary data by Chief Electoral Officer, Bhubaneswar said.

However, even as the exact figure is yet to come, the estimated poll percentage is below the 74 per cent average polling rate recorded in the 28 assembly constituencies in 2014. The lower rate of polling holds the potential to affect the results.

As per CEO Surendra Kumar, the EVM failure rate in the phase-1 polls has been below 1 per cent, which is far below the usual average failure rate of the EVMs.

"In 7,233 EVMs, only 169 VVPAT, 62 ballot units and 65 control units had to be replaced, which is negligible. All poll personnel have undergone extensive training to attend to such glitches," he said.

A total of 730 booths were webcasted in today's polls, which is around 10 per cent of total polling booths in the polls. In around 90-95 per cent booths, EC has provisioned wheelchairs for differently abled persons.

"For the first time in the state, 18,500 braille ballot papers were made available at the booths to aid visually impaired voters," the CEO said.

There were reports of poll boycott by villagers in some places over local issues, while zero polling was recorded in some Maoist-hit areas of Malkangiri district. "Around half-a-dozen booths in Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri recorded "zero polling," said CEO Surendra Kumar.

Barring six to seven booths in Malkangiri, where no votes were polled all day, people came out in large numbers in the Maoist belts to exercise their franchise," the CEO stated.

Sources in Malkangiri district administration said that in many places in Chitrakonda assembly segment, people did not turn up to cast their votes.

Though the polling stations were located close to the BSF camps to ensure safety of voters, the people in Cut-off area and in Mathili block in Malkangiri district chose not to take any risk. Earlier, the Left Wing Extremists had appealed to the villagers through posters to boycott the polling.

Meanwhile, a report from Kalahandi district said that the people in five places boycotted votes on local demands like road connectivity, bridges and lack of development activities in their areas.

The vote boycott was reported from Bhejipadar village under Bhawanipatna assembly segment, Surli, Supel, Kusumdara, Sankriguda cluster of villages under Junagarh assembly segment, Tetengpadar under Narla assembly segment, 4 villages under Taljhapi of Thuamul Rampur block in Lanjigarh assembly segment, Manibandha of Lanjigarh assembly segment.

The CEO said there is no provision for holding reelections in places where people boycotted the polls or refrained from voting due to other reasons.

After the conclusion of polling period, various political parties exuded confidence about having "performed well" in the elections.

While thanking the voters of the four Lok Sabha constituencies, BJD president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik claimed his party candidates have "performed very well" in the polls held on Thursday.

"I expect, the results to be better than the 2014 polls," BJD president Patnaik told reporters.

BJP Odisha in-charge Arun Singh also made similar claims and said his party would win the elections in Odisha with three-fourth majority in the State assembly.

OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik said, "The Congress candidates will win 18 out of the 28 assembly seats where polling was held on Thursday.

As reports received from the ground do suggest great enthusiasm among voters spread across the four LS constituencies and 28 Assembly Constituencies (AC), the gusto to vote is discernible in constituencies like Berhampur, which had recorded a lower turnout of around 48 percent in 2009. Berhampur has recorded voter turnout of 53 per cent till 3:30 PM and latest figures are awaited.

Long queues were noticed prior to the starting of polling hours at 8 AM in tribal constituencies like Nabarangpur and Koraput. Passion of voter is noticeable in Kalahandi too. Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Koraput are constituencies  to watch out for in the first phase of polls.

Latest EC data till 3:30 PM suggests a voter turnout of around 53 per cent in Kalahandi, 55 per cent in Koraput, respectively. Till 3:30 PM Nabarangpur has witnessed poll percentage of 50 per cent. Latest figures are awaited.

Significantly, Nabarangapur is witnessing a high stake battle as sitting MP Balabhadra Majhi, who won in 2014 from BJD ticket, is locking horns with Congress strongman Pradeep Majhi  and Ramesh Majhi of BJD.

Nabarangpur constituency had witnessed a polling percentage of around 64 per cent in 2009, but the overall poll percentage touched around 78 per cent in 2014. And Balabhadra Majhi won by a whisker in 2014.

Koraput had recorded a poll turnout of around 62 per cent in 2009, which moved up to touch around 64.7 per cent.  Higher turnout is a lookout factor as BJD strongman Pangi is contesting on BJP ticket, which makes BJP the key player in the constituency in 2019.

Kalahandi in 2014 had recorded a polling percentage of around 75.7 vis-a-vis a voter turnout of 68.8 per cent in 2009. Higher turnout could prove decisive for the battle here when both BJD and BJP have changed their LS candidates. BJP has fielded its State President Basanta Panda and BJD pitted its minister Pushpendra Singhdeo. Veteran Congress leader Bhakta Das is trying his luck again from the constituency.

The Berhampur Lok Sabha constituency had recorded polling percentage of around 68  in 2014 against a moderate 50.7 per cent in 2009. The Berhampur AC had witnessed a low polling of 48 per cent in 2009, which was improved to around 62 per cent in 2014.

As per the trend observed over the last general elections, higher turnout in Odisha cannot be categorised as anti-incumbency or pro-incumbency, but a certain inference could easily be drawn out. Higher turnout in Odisha gives a decisive mandate to a party.

The poll factoids: Dabugaon AC witnessed highest poll percentage in 2009 and 2014. The poll percentage in 2014 was a whopping around 84.7 per cent vis-a-vis 72.3 per cent in 2009.

Nabarangpur AC had polled the second highest turnout of over 81 per cent in 2014. The AC had polled a moderate 69 per cent in 2009.


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