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Violence marks Day 1 of poll

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 11: The first phase of the three-tier panchayat elections was marred by sporadic incidents of violence with reports of bomb attacks, rigging and snatching of ballot boxes.

Re-election was ordered by State Election Commission at 12 polling booths in seven districts following allegations of rigging and booth capturing.

While the father-in-law of a candidate running for sarpanch was killed at Kaniha in Angul district last night, seven persons were injured today as rivals hurled bombs at them following counting of votes in Bhadrak district.

However, the first phase polling was by and large peaceful barring the stray incidents of violence, said state election commissioner Ajit Kumar Tripathy. Polling was held in 20,289 booths covering 1,454 gram panchayats in 82 blocks.

Over 68 per cent of the 56.26 lakh voters exercised their franchise today. The highest turnout of 87 per cent was recorded in Cuttack district, while 52 per cent voters, the lowest, cast their votes in the tribal-dominated and Maoist-hit Malkangiri district.

Polling was postponed in 13 booths in Malkangiri district following a landmine blast yesterday, in which four BSF personnel were killed.

Things went smoothly in Padampur and Gudari blocks of Rayagada district and Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district. These areas are known as Maoist strongholds.

A report from Angul said Bana Sahu, 65, father-in-law of sarpanch candidate Chumki Sahu, was murdered last night in Kaniha police station area. Lokanath Sahu, son of the deceased, said in his complaint that a group of people belonging to supporters of the rival candidate, Padmini, had yesterday threatened Chumki to withdraw from contest or face dire consequences.

In Bhandaripokhari block of Bhadrak district, at least seven persons were injured in a bomb attack after the counting of votes. The culprits hurled crude bombs in Maninathpur village under Saranpur gram panchayat of Bhandaripokhari.

Keonjhar district also witnessed sporadic poll-related violence. While two shops were torched in Dhakota area, some goons belonging to a political party tried to rig the polls in Daradipal, Khalana and Deogan booths under Ghasipura block.

Polling at a booth in Malarpada village of Anandapur block was stalled for about an hour after goons tried to rig the poll. Polling resumed after police intervened.

In Jajpur district, a group of people snatched the ballot box from booth No. 9 of Anaka in Barachana block and dumped it into a pond.

In Ganjam district, irate voters damaged a jeep of the tehsildar of Digpahandi at Phasiguda. However, the tehsildar was not hurt.

Re-polling has been ordered in four booths of Aska block following allegations of booth capture and rigging. A group of people reportedly locked the presiding officer and the polling team inside the Bhramarabarpur booth in Nimakhandipentha panchayat under Digapahandi block. Some people also allegedly beat up a polling agent at Dhanika in Aska block.

In Bhadrak district, re-poll has been ordered in two booths following reports of ballot box snatching and rigging. Reports of goons carrying away ballot boxes was also received from four booths in Brahamagiri and Kanas blocks of Puri district.