Third phase panchayat polls over

Bhubaneswar: The third phase of poling for the three-tier panchayat level bodies today remained by and large peaceful apart from a few incidents of poll related violence including ballot-box loots and snatching of ballot papers. Elections were held in 79 blocks spread across 30 districts. The polling was held to elect sarpanches and panchayat samiti members for 1,350 panchayats and representatives for 188 zilla parishads.

State Election Commission said that the average polling percentage remained 69 per cent. While Boudh with 85 per cent recorded the highest polling percentage, Koraput remained at the bottom with just 50 per cent turn out.  

Polling was marred in seven booths in Bagadia panchayat under Kujang block in Jagatsinghpur district following group clashes between activists of two political parties over alleged irregularities in conduct of polls. Miscreants looted seven ballot boxes and dumped the boxes in water. Similar situations prevailed in village Jhimani under Bagadia panchayat where miscreants looted three ballot-boxes. Likewise voting for the Zilla Parishad was stopped in Zone Number 3 in Khurda after irregularities were detected in ballot papers. The elction symbol of CPI(M) candidate Sailesh Baliarsingh was wrongly printed prompting the election commission to cancel poling for the zilla parishad.

Poling was affected in booth number 2,3 and five in Trilochanpur panchayat under Lanjigarh block in Kalahandi district as Maoist ultras reportedly looted three ballot boxes. The police said that two female Maoists took part in the loot incident.

The most ironical incident however was witnessed in the booth in village Sahebdera under Balishankara block in Sundergarh district. The Presiding Officer after heated arguments with a group of voters lost his cool and set fire to ballot papers. Voting however resumed after new ballot papers were arranged.