Polling underway on 4 LS & 28 Assembly seats in Odisha

Bhubaneswar, May 13 (UNI) Amid tight security, polling began at 7 am in four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly seats spread across eight districts of Odisha on Monday.

A little over 62.84 lakh voters, including 31.87 lakh women voters and 635 transgender individuals, would exercise their franchise to seal the electoral fortunes of 37 Lok Sabha and 243 Assembly candidates.

Reports reaching the CEO office here said voters have turned out in large numbers since the morning to cast their ballots. A long queue was seen in many booths as cloudy weather prevailed in most parts of south Odisha since early morning.

In some booths, voting was delayed due to a technical snag in the EVM machines.

Chief Electoral Officer Nikunja Bihari Dhal stated that all arrangements have been made to provide a positive experience for the voters during the polling. He appealed to them to come out in large numbers and exercise their democratic rights.

Although the IMD predicted good weather, all arrangements have been initiated to ensure zero casualties among polling personnel, volunteers, and voters during the heatwave.

Asha workers have been provided with ORS, and transport arrangements have been made for senior citizens and persons with disabilities from their homes to the polling booths to cast their ballots.

Dhal mentioned that in Koraput, an Air Ambulance has been deployed until May 20 to lift polling personnel in case of emergencies.

Odisha DGP Arun Sarangi assured that the police are fully prepared for a smooth, impartial, free, and fair election. He stated that adequate security arrangements have been made in Maoist-infested areas and at polling booths deemed critical from a security standpoint.

About 104 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been deployed for the election, including 31 CRPF, 39 BSF, and 29 Armed Police forces from other states. The highest deployment of 25 CAPF companies is in the sensitive and Naxal-hit Malkangiri district, followed by 18 companies in Koraput and 17 companies in the Kalahandi district.

The four parliamentary constituencies voting today are Berhampur, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur, and Koraput, with the last two being Scheduled Tribe (ST) constituencies.

Out of the 37 candidates contesting the four Lok Sabha seats, seven are female candidates, there are no transgender candidates in fray. Similarly, out of the 243 candidates contesting for 28 Assembly seats, 211 are male and 32 are female.

Although all four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly seats will witness a multi-cornered contest, the primary battle for the ballots will likely be between the ruling BJD and the main opposition BJP.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the formation of a double-engine government this time, with a BJP chief minister taking oath in Odisha on June 10, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asserted that the BJD will retain power for the sixth consecutive time.

Among those campaigning for the BJP were PM Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Road Transport and Highway Minister Nitin Gadkari, Assam Chief Minister Himant Biswa Sharma, and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai.

PM Modi, taking to his X handle, said, “Assembly Elections commence in Odisha today. I call upon the people of this state to cast their franchise in large numbers. Your vote is your voice—let it be heard loudly and clearly.”

BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, along with his trusted aide V K Pandian, campaigned extensively for party candidates.

The Congress campaign was lacklustre, with few central leaders, besides party leader Rahul Gandhi, visiting the state for electioneering. Rahul Gandhi addressed a public meeting at Salepur in coastal Odisha and another election meeting at Rayagada virtually.

All three major parties are contesting the four Lok Sabha and 28 Assembly seats.

In Koraput, sitting Congress MP Saptagiri Ulka is seeking re-election. The BJD has replaced its sitting MPs in Berhampur and Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seats, while the BJP has done the same in its Kalahandi seat.

In Berhampur Lok Sabha seat, the fight will be between two turncoats, one from BJD and the other from BJP, although there are eleven candidates in the fray.

Prominent political leaders whose fates will be sealed on Monday include Odisha Congress President Sarat Pattnayak, former Railway Minister Bhakta Charan Das, B K Pattnaik, Tara Prasad Bahinipati (sitting MLA from Jypore), and Balabhadra Majhi, all from the Congress party.

On the other hand, Odisha Planning and Convergence Minister Rajendra Dholkia, former ministers Pushpendra Singdeo and Bidya Shankar Mishra (sitting MLA) from the ruling BJD, will try their luck.

The BJP has fielded actor-turned-politician Sidhant Mohapatra, a former BJD MP, from the Digapahandi Assembly seat. He will face Biplab Patra, a debutant from BJD and son of the late SN Patro, a veteran BJD leader who was elected to the seat thrice since the 2009 Assembly elections.

In the 2019 elections BJD had won 20 of the 28 Assembly seats and two out of four Lok Sabha seats while BJP and Congress had won four and three assembly seats respectively and one Lok Sabha seat each.

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