Fates of 280 candidates contesting Lok Sabha, Assembly seats sealed in Odisha 

For the first time, voters in Swabhiman Anchal, erstwhile bastion of Left Wing Extremism, exercised their franchise in polling booths set up in their own villages

Updated - May 13, 2024 10:30 pm IST

Published - May 13, 2024 10:25 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR

People gather at a polling station to cast their votes during the fourth phase of India's general election, in Malkangiri district in the eastern state of Odisha, India, May 13, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

People gather at a polling station to cast their votes during the fourth phase of India's general election, in Malkangiri district in the eastern state of Odisha, India, May 13, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer | Photo Credit: Reuters

The fates of 37 and 243 candidates contesting from four Lok Sabha and 28 State Assembly seats, respectively, in Odisha were sealed, with about 62.96% voter turnout recorded in the region comprising the four Lok Sabha constituencies, which is most affected by LWE, by 5 p.m. on May 13. All 28 Assembly constituencies lie in the jurisdiction of the four Lok Sabha constituencies — Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, and Berhampur.

A total of 266 candidates had filed their nominations for contesting elections in the 28 Assembly seats. Finally, 243 candidates remained in the fray. Similarly, a total of 38 candidates had filed nominations for the four Lok Sabha seats. After nomination, one candidate was rejected and 37 candidates were left to be chosen by voters. A total of 62,84,967 electors had registered for the fourth phase

Also read | BJP sharpens attack on BJD; alleges Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik ‘is controlled like a puppet’

While the Congress is hopeful of winning some seats in Koraput and Rayagada districts, where it has a good presence, in the rest of the seats, there is straight fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

The elections were keenly fought in the seven Assembly seats in Ganjam, home district of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The BJP’s Pradeep Panigahi appeared to be in a straight fight with the BJD’s Bhrugu Baxipatra in for the Berhampur Lok Sabha seat, where Congress MP Saptagiri Shankar Ulaka is facing a tough challenge to retain his seat. The Kalahandi and Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seats may also see a close contest, according to responses from voters.

Senior Congress leaders Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Bijay Patnaik, Balabhadra Majhi and Bhakta Charan Das; BJD leader Pushpendra Singhdeo, Dibya Shankar Mishra and Ramesh Majhi; and BJP leader Sidhant Mohapatra and Bibhuti Bhusan Jena contested in Assembly segments in this phase.

All eyes were on Swabhiman Anchal, erstwhile bastion of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). In Malkangiri, people for the first time voted in booths set up in own their villages. As many as 23 polling booths were established. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Nikunja Behari Dhal said voting passed off smoothly across all 28 Assembly constituencies.

In 2019, voters from nine panchayats had exercised their franchise at a single Border Security Force (BSF) camp at Jantapai in view of the threat from Left Wing Extremism (LWE). People from far-flung areas, including Dhuliput, Sarkubandh, Andrapali and Panasput, had to travel long distances to reach the polling booth. The voting percentage was a meagre 25.77%. This time, voting percentage has touched 65.46%.

After the domination of the area by security forces, and the construction of all-weather roads along with high-level bridges, the establishment of booths was facilitated.

“We had security challenges in Swabhiman Anchal, but there was no untoward incident. Forces had patrolled the entire area since Sunday evening. Five tiers of mobile patrolling continued till votes were cast,” Sanjay Kumar, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order), said.

Similarly, the office of the CEO said that people in the Kotia group of villages in Koraput district had voted enthusiastically in nine booths. Both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh claim the Kotia group villages as their own, and electors of Kotia had threated to vote for candidates of two districts. According to Mr. Dhal, the voting percentage in the Kotia villages was 76% by 5 p.m.

The CEO moved to take action against three presiding officers for dereliction in duty. Poll related violence was reported in Chikiti Assembly constituency in Ganjam district.

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