Odisha gears up for first phase elections; polling parties reach booths

Bhubaneswar: With 4 Lok Sabha & 28 Assembly constituencies of Odisha going to polls tomorrow, the polling parties have started arriving at their designated booths with their voting equipment.

The Election Commission has made extensive arrangements for polling scheduled to be held in four Lok Sabha constituencies- Kalahandi, Nabarangapur, Berhampur and Koraput and the 28 Assembly seats falling under these segments.

While 28 candidates are in the fray for the four Lok Sabha seats, as many as 191 candidates are contesting for the 28 Assembly seats. In the first phase, a total of 60, 03,707 voters are likely to exercise their franchise, out of which 29, 72, 925 are male voters and 30, 30, 222 are female voters.

The Election Commission has deployed 47, 805 officials for smooth management and conduct of elections in 7,233 polling stations across the State which will go to polls in 4 phases.

Since the first phase elections will mostly cover Maoist-affected regions of the State, the EC and State Police are prioritising security and safety in these areas. A total of 2,375 booths have been identified as very sensitive and security has been tightened with deployment of central para military forces and armed police personnel. To keep strict vigil on election proceedings, prevent any kind of untoward incidents and ensure free, fair and peaceful elections, CCTV cameras have been installed while web casting and videography will also be carried out. To assist in deployment of polling officials in cut-off and Maoist affected areas, the government has also made arrangements of choppers for transporting the officials.

“We are on an alert as it is a sensitive booth. There is nothing to worry about due to presence of security personnel,” said Dayanidhi Banjara, first polling officer, Raighar.

“A total of 68 mobile patrolling parties have been deployed in the district. Besides area domination operation is on in naxal-affected areas. Intelligence gathering has been intensified at the ground level. Check points will be set up at various places and foot patrolling will be intensified,” said Saravana Vivek, Rayagada SP.

In his reaction, BK Sharma, DGP in-charge said, “The SOP has been strictly followed and extra SOG teams have been deployed. Helicopter sortie were carried out to help polling parties reach inaccessible area.”

“To ensure free and peaceful atmosphere for voting, security has been tightened. A total of 27 companies of CAPF and Odisha Police have been deployed in the district,” said Kanwar Vishal Singh, Koraput SP.

Since this is the first time, women personnel are being deployed in 30 booths of the State, the EC has also made adequate arrangements in this regard.

“When the EC announced the decision, we were very concerned since it is the first time that women are being roped in to assist as booth officials. But after training, we feel more confident and hope that we can fulfill our duty with responsibility,” said a lady polling officer.

Speaking to OTV on security arrangements in the south-western region of the State, SWR Police DIG Himansu Lal said police have made all necessary arrangements as per the security norms to ensure peaceful conduct of elections.

Presiding officer of  Booth no- 158 in Bhawanipatna said a mock poll will be carried out at 6 am in presence of party agents. “But if they do not arrive by 6.15 am, we, officials of polling parties will conduct mock poll,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, Chief Electoral Officer Surendra Kumar had informed that satellite phones have been provided at 810 booths where there are no mobile or internet facilities. In sensitive booths, polling will be carried out from 7 am till 4 pm while in other booths; voters can cast their ballot between 7 am and 6 pm.