Over 8 per cent polling was recorded in the first two hours of voting in Odishas Padampur assembly constituency, where by-election is underway on Monday, an Election Commission official said. Long queues were seen in front of several polling stations even before the voting process started at 7 am.
Tight security arrangements have been made in all 319 polling stations. At least 8.5 per cent of eligible voters have exercised their franchise till 9 am, the EC official said.
The voting will continue till 4 pm. Odishas Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S K Lohani said glitches in EVMs were reported in four booths, following which all these voting machines were replaced.
He appealed to people to cast their votes without any fear.
Over 2.57 lakh voters, including 12 members of the transgender community, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the by-poll.
The by-election assumes significance in the wake of the BJDs loss in Dhamnagar, its first such defeat since 2009, with many in political circles claiming that the result would also indicate if electoral scales were tilting against the Naveen Patnaik-led party ahead of the 2024 state elections.
At least 1,400 police personnel and nine companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed for the by-election, the official said.
All the entry and exit points of the constituency were sealed as the assembly segment was earlier considered as a Maoist-infested area, he said.
Seventy-nine polling booths are identified as critical, Lohani said.
Webcasting of the polling process is being done in 120 booths; 66 stations remain under CCTV surveillance.
There are 15 model booths and six pink ones, which have women security personnel and polling officials.
Pick-up and drop arrangements have been made for voters with physical disabilities, the EC official said.
Ninety-one micro observers have been engaged along with CAPF deployment in appropriate locations, the CEO said.
There are 10 candidates in the fray for the by-poll.
The ruling BJD fielded Barsha Singh Bariha, the daughter of Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha whose death necessitated the by-poll, while the opposition BJPs nominee is the former MLA and partys Krushak Morcha president Pradip Purohit.
Congress candidate Satya Bhusan Sahu had won the seat three times earlier.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik campaigned for the BJD candidate, while Union ministers Narendra Sigh Tomar, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Dharmendra Pradhan and Bishweswar Tudu canvassed for Purohit.
BJD candidate Barsha Singh Bariha and Purohit, the BJP nominee, cast their votes in the first two hours of polling.
“Earlier, I was voting for my father and now for myself,” Barsha told reporters after exercising her franchise.
Votes will be counted on December 8.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)