Call for poll boycott by Maoists and their threats could not deter voters in the inaccessible area of Balimela reservoir from exercising their right during the panchayat elections held in the area on Sunday.

The area, which is accessible only from Odisha side by motor boats, is the major Maoist stronghold in the district. They are part of Kudumulguma block of Malkangiri district. Apart from these villages of cut-off area, polling was also held in 13 booths of Nakamamudi panchayat of Kudumulguma block. Polling in these booths was to be held on February 11. But, the State Election Commission (SEC) postponed elections in these booths following the Maoist ambush near Balimela on February 10 in which four BSF personnel were killed. The polling staff to these 13 booths was to pass through the same road.

According to sources, there was heavy voter turnout in these 13 booths of Nakamamudi panchayat on Sunday. Voting percentage was expected to be around 70 per cent. There was heavy voter turnout in the 84 booths of the cut-off area of Balimela reservoir. Final data regarding polling percentage in these booths had not been calculated till evening. Malkangiri Collector Balwant Singh said initial reports indicate that polling percentage in these inaccessible booths in Maoist-infested area was more than 50 per cent.

Mr. Singh said the high turnout hinted at the faith of villagers in democratic system and the success of developmental projects initiated in the area. Helicopters were put on standby for transportation of polling material and polling officials in case of emergency. But to and fro transportation of polling officials and vote boxes were done by motorboats, the only mean of transportation of localites of the area to the main land.

This also increased confidence of voters towards the polling process.

Security

Adequate security also played a major role in the safe conduct of elections in the area. Personnel of Border Security Force (BSF) and Special Operation Group (SOG) were deployed in the area. Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) of police Soumendra Priyadarshi and Malkangiri Superintendent of Police (SP) Aniruddha Singh monitored the security arrangements from Kudumulguma.

In Rayagada district of south Odisha, polling could not be held in one booth at Dangamati village under Kalyansinghpur block due to alleged Maoist threat.