No early elections! Final voter list in Odisha by January 2019

Bhubaneswar: Amid speculations of early elections, the Chief Electoral Officer of Odisha said that the final voter list in the state will be published on January 4, 2019; thereby ruling out any chances of elections in 2018 for the time being.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday kicked off poll preparations and issued directions for making necessary arrangements for the revision of the voter list in Odisha.

State Chief Electoral Officer, Surendra Kumar informed that the process for the special summary revision of the voter list and publication of draft voter list will start from September 1 while objections will be heard by October 31, 2018.

Appraising the steps taken for the upcoming elections, Kumar informed that a final and revised voter list after disposal of objections will be published on January 4, 2019.

As per the voter list revision done in 2018, there are 3, 12, 57,803 voters (1, 61, 16, 754 male, 1, 51, 38, 896 female) while the number of polling booths stood at 35,896.

The number of polling booths is likely to go up by at least 1,800 to 2,000 for the upcoming polls in the State, Kumar said.

“This time adequate focus will be given to ensure that no eligible voters are left out. Apart from this, first time voters who are not included in the voter list can also apply online through the national voter service portal of the Election Commission of India,” said Kumar.

Kumar further stated that the Election Commission of India has declared this year as ‘Sugam Matdan Varsh’ or accessible elections for all.

Hence, steps are being taken to ensure that people with disabilities get enrolled and provisions at booths will be made so that they can exercise their franchise without any difficulties, Kumar added.

Official sources said Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be procured from six states for the upcoming elections in Odisha. Along with EVMs, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines will be also used for the first time.

Meanwhile, the pre-poll preparations have put political parties in a quandary who are yet to select their candidates ahead of the polls.

Experts believe that the ruling-Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has a herculean task as it has strength of 118 MLAs and selecting party candidates is going to be a tough call for the party supremo and chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

“BJD has its own way of selecting candidates and it has never been a challenging task,” said BJD leader Sashi Bhusan Behera.

Not only BJD, Congress as well as the BJP are having several rounds of discussions to finalize their respective candidates. The Congress had earlier announced that it will declare half of its candidates by August.

“The candidates with winning capabilities will be given preference. However, the selection of candidates for the upcoming polls has almost been completed,” said Congress leader, Tara Prasad Bahinipati.