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Poll plot keeps winter night warm

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 8: Hours before polling commenced in the city to elect a new corporation, the capital witnessed a frenzy of nocturnal activities with neither the candidates nor their supporters able to catch forty winks.

Police on duty also spent a restless night in the slum areas, which are targeted by most of the candidates.

As reports of candidates trying to distribute money poured in from some slum areas, the men in khaki and supporters of political parties got engaged in a hide-and-seek game.

Cops on duty at police station admitted that got anonymous calls about dubious activity, including money distribution, in the slums.

However, when police teams rushed to those places, which included Kargil basti, the troublemakers vanished.

A team of reporters from The Telegraph kept tabs on what went on in the city during the tension-filled hours before the polling commenced early this morning.

At Mali Sahi, one of the largest slums with a large number of voters, few appeared to be sleeping at around 11.20pm.

Around 30 youths stood in a group at one corner of the slum discussing poll-day strategy.

Without any woollens on them, the youths seemed oblivious of the chill, with the mercury having dropped to 16°C.

A police patrolling van made rounds of the area every 10 minutes, but did not bother to ask any questions to the youths, who, too, appeared less worried about the men in uniform.

The Kharavela Nagar police station in-charge, Nihar Ranjan Pradhan, camped with his men on the road leading upto the slum till 3.30am.

“Not only me, all our officers are keeping a watch. Even the commissioner of police is patrolling the streets to ensure that no law and order problem crops up,” said Pradhan.

He snubbed two youths who came up to him and sought to know the reason for his keeping up so late at night.

“Only after the likes of you go home can we go back to the police station,” he told them.

There were also instances of police highhandedness. Around 12.25am in Unit VI area, they picked up the brother of the Congress candidate for ward No. 46, barely 250 meters from Union minister Srikant Jena’s house.

Nearly a dozen of policemen, who arrived at the spot, threatened to enter the nearby slum. Acting with characteristic intemperance, they used abusive language.

“What can we do when people refuse to listen to us,” said a senior police official as he spotted The Telegraph reporters, who were also subjected to checking and allowed to proceed only after identities were established.

Later, supporters of the Congress candidate concerned reached the Capital police station and created a ruckus.

Tension was palpable at Kargil basti near the Air-port around 11.45am with BJP leader Samir Mohanty, along with his supporters, making rounds of the area.

“We are guarding the slums as the BJD leaders are trying to sneak in and distribute money among the residents,” Mohanty said.

There was a lot of activity in ward No. 47 from where former mayor Ananta Naryan Jena is contesting.

Jena’s supporters moved around in an expensive car.

“We are guarding our voters. We apprehend poaching by rivals,” said one of his supporters. Not far away, a group of Congress activists beat the chill by sitting around a bonfire. “We are not getting any support from the police,” said one of them.

At police stations across the city, cops were in readiness to tackle any untoward incident. At Airfield police station, in-charge Rashmi Ranjan Sahu was busy issuing instructions to his men.

“There are too many calls alleging money distribution. But so far these have proved to be hoax calls” he said.

There was a heavy police deployment near Naveen Nivas.

Those on duty made a lot of fuss about letting a baraat party pass the area. “Our CM is no Arvind Kejriwal, we have to be careful,” quipped a policeman on duty.