Panchayat polls: 69 pc turnout in last phase

Bhubaneswar: Over 69 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in fifth and last phase of panchayat polls in the state today which witnessed stray incidents of violence and booth capturing in some places. "An estimated 69.41 per cent of the 311.85 lakh electorate voted in the final phase of panchayat elections," State Election Commission sources said here.

Nayagarh district registered the maximum voter turnout of 85 per cent, while Bargarh and Jagatsinghpur districts recorded 77 per cent polling. The turnout in Cuttack district was 62 per cent, lowest in the state, the sources said. The fifth phase of polling was held for 111 zilla parishad zones and 806 gram panchayats spread over 48 blocks in 24 districts. The elections for first four phases had been held on February 11, 13, 15 and 17.

Polling passed off by and large peacefully barring stray incidents of violence and attempted booth capturing in districts like Jajpur, Ganjam, Puri and Cuttack, sources said. In Jajpur district, a large number of people tried to loot ballot box at a booth in Jaanar village in Gobardhanpur panchayat under Danagadi block. When the police used mild force to disperse them, they attacked policemen in which a sub inspector of Tomka police station was injured, police said.

Later, more police force reached the spot and arrested five of them. Miscreants snatched ballot box from booth no-4 in Pankapal panchayat under the Danagadi block and dumped it in nearby pond, they said adding miscreants also snatched ballot papers at two booths of the same panchayat, the sources said. Rigging and booth capturing was also reported from four booths in Ostapal panchayat.

In Ganjam district, polling was disrupted in at least two booths in Dharakote block as some miscreants allegedly snatched away the ballot box and ballot papers. The ballot box was recovered later, said SP (Ganjam) Rajesh Pandit. No arrest however made. Loot of ballot box was also reported from Gop and Konark area in Puri district.