City Police have tightened security in over 400 slums in Bhubaneswar with slum-dwellers likely to play a key role in deciding the fate of candidates contesting from three assembly constituencies in the city.
Soon after campaigning for the second and final phase of election came to an end on Tuesday, security personnel along with expenditure observers started keeping a close watch on movement of vehicles and suspicious people in the slums.
In Bhubaneswar urban police district, as many as 44 pockets have been mapped to be vulnerable. Of this, 30 pockets come under slum habitations. Four armed police personnel have been deployed in each pocket. Apart from five companies of CRPF personnel, as many as 3,400 of State police officers have taken position to thwart any untoward incident. About 40 visual surveillance teams are making regular rounds in these areas.
Majority of votes are polled by slum dwellers in the capital city that witnessed 49 per cent voter turnout in 2009 which was the lowest in the State. Voting percentage dipped below 40 per cent in some localities inhabited by middle class and upper middle class people.
According to trends in the last civic poll, slum voters made all the difference in electing candidates to the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.
Anticipating that slum voters would play a vital role, candidates contesting from Central Bhubaneswar, North Bhubaneswar and Ekamra Bhubaneswar devoted most of their time in campaigning in slums. There are 182 booths in central, 214 in north and 201 in Ekamra Bhubaneswar constituencies.
The night before the election day is crucial. In previous elections, political parties are alleged to have pumped in money to influence voters. As various interest groups are active in major slums like Salia Sahi, the Election Commission has declared some booths in slums as sensitive.
“All mainstream political parties have already entered slums with a strategy to get their votes. From foreign liquor to cash and from promise of house under government scheme to regularization of their existence, all kinds of promises are being doled out in the slum in the ensuing election,” said Biswapriya Kanungo, a human rights activist who raises issue of slums at different forums.