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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Wait over, time for ballot war

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 12: Orissa today geared up for the first phase of polling for elections to the state’s three-tier panchayat raj bodies starting tomorrow.

State election commissioner Sanjib Hota said preparations for the first phase, to be held in 22,252 polling booths across the state, were in place. He assured that all precautionary measures had been taken to ensure “free and fair” elections.

The election commissioner appealed to voters to exercise their franchise “without fear” and advised them to contact polling officials in the event of any problems.

More than 58 lakh people are expected to vote tomorrow to elect 203 zilla parishad members, 1,597 panchayat samiti members, 1,605 sarpanchs and 22,252 ward members. Polling will be held from 7 am to 12 noon, said officials in the election panel.

This year’s panchayat elections will be held in five phases starting tomorrow. The remaining four rounds will be held on February 15, 17, 19 and 21.

Voters will have to identify themselves in polling booths by producing photo identity cards issued by the Election Commission of India or other documents such as ration cards, PAN cards and so on.

Nearly 1.16 lakh presiding and polling officers have been appointed by the election commission to conduct the polls.

Of the total 87,542 polling booths, as many as 43,750 have been identified to be in sensitive and hyper-sensitive areas.

Accordingly, special security measures have been taken to maintain law and order and prevent untoward incidents in those places, said director-general of police Amarananda Pattanayak.

Indirect elections to the posts of naib sarpanchs, panchayat samiti chairpersons and vice-chairpersons and zilla parishad presidents and vice-presidents would be held on March 10, 11, 13, 21 and 22, respectively.

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