Chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik shows his inked finger after casting vote in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. (PTI)
Bhubaneswar, April 17: Polling for 11 Lok Sabha and 77 Assembly constituencies in the state concluded today. Counting will be held on May 16.
With the electorate exercising their franchise, the fate of many heavyweights, including eight ministers, seven sitting MPs, 45 sitting MLAs, Congress leader Srikant Jena, Congress chief Jaydev Jena and BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra was sealed in the electronic voting machines.
In the second and final phase of polling, the coastal belt today witnessed a record turnout of 70 per cent voting. It may further go up once the final figure is compiled late at night. In the first phase of polling on April 10, 75 per cent voting was recorded.
While Angul and Dhenkanal districts recorded highest percentage of voting of 75 per cent, Khurda recorded the lowest as only 45 per cent of the voters turned up. The polling was less than 40 per cent in Bhubaneswar town, despite a sustained campaign undertaken by the Election Commission to ensure a higher voter participation.
State’s chief electoral officer Mona Sharma said: “The second phase poll was by and large peaceful barring a few stray incidents of violence. While cases of rigging attempt were reported at four polling booths at the Niali Assembly seat in Cuttack district, people had detained a local tehsildar for nearly one hour at the Karanjia Assembly seat in Mayurbhanj as he persuaded people not to boycott polls and take part in the process.”
The voters at one polling station at Karnjia boycotted the polls, citing that the government had failed to provide water and power to their areas. Re-poll will be held at the four polling booths in Niali.
Re-poll was conducted at 22 booths today that had gone to voting in the first phase of election. Zero voting was reported at eight polling booths at Chitrakonda in Malkangiri district today. Sources said the voters did not turn up to take part, fearing Maoist threat. In Cuttack, the police arrested one Congress councillor, Giribala Behera, while she was trying to distribute money in the low-lying areas. The cops recovered Rs 30,000 from her.
The BJD hoped to reap the benefits as the polling date coincided with the 17th death anniversary of legendary leader Biju Patnaik. To establish a chord with the 1.5 crore electorate of the coastal belt on this day, the party today issued advertisements in all newspapers carrying pictures of Biju babu only to avoid any stricture from the Election Commission on possible violation of the model code of conduct.
After paying floral tributes to the late leader at the party office, BJD president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik went to a polling station near Biju Patnaik Airport and exercised his franchise. Assam governor J.B. Patnaik flew from Assam to cast vote at his native place Rameshwar in Khurda district.
Prominent among the 98 candidates for the Lok Sabha included BJD’s Arjun Charan Sethi, Prasanna Kumar Patasani, Tathagat Satpathy, Baijayant Panda, Pinaki Mishra and Bhatruhari Mahtab (all BJD MPs seeking the re-nomination). CPI MP Bibhu Prasad Tarai is contesting on a Congress ticket this time.
Among the 747 candidates in the Assembly fray are a host of high-profile leaders and state ministers such as Damodar Rout, Bijoyshree Routray, Debi Prasad Mishra, Maheshwar Mohanty, Arun Sahu, Pratap Keshari Deb and Badri Narayan Patra, apart from BJD’s Rajya Sabha members Rabi Narayan Mohapatra and Sashi Bhusan Behera and former minister Bishnu Das.
However, all eyes are set on key Assembly constituencies of the coastal belt, which would influence the political scenario in the state. These constituencies are Mahakalapada in Kendrapara, Satyabadi in Puri, Khandapada in Nayagarh, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore and Brahmagiri in Puri. Stalwarts such as Bijoy Mohapatra (BJP), Prasad Harichandan, (Congress) Soumya Ranjan Patnaik (Aama Odisha Party), Chiranjeev Biswal (Congress), Arun Dey (Congress) and Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohaptra (Congress) are contesting from these constituencies, respectively.
In the Lok Sabha, eyes are focused on Srikant Jena (Balasore), BJD’s Baijayant Panda (Kendrapara), Bhartruhari Mahtab (Cuttack) and Tathagat Satpathy (Dhenkanal).
The BJP, which banks on the Modi factor in a big way in the state, has fielded among others Samir Dey (Cuttack), Pratap Sarangi (Balasore), Prithviraj Harichandan, (Bhubaneswar) and Rudra Narayan Pani (Dhenkanal).