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Bhubaneswar, March 2: The chief electoral officer of Orissa has convened a meeting of all district collectors and returning officers on Wednesday and Thursday now that Orissa will go to the polls simultaneously for both the Lok Sabha and the Assembly in two phases next month.

While the first phase of polling would be held on April 16 for 10 Lok Sabha and 70 Assembly constituencies, the second phase will take place on April 23 for the rest of the 11 Lok Sabha and 77 Assembly seats.

Chief electoral officer Alaka Panda said: “The process for polls started today. We will gear up our machinery for smooth conduct of the elections.”

She also said she would hold a meeting with the home secretary, the director-general of police and superintendents of police later to discuss polling in troubled areas.

Director-general of police Manmohan Praharaj told The Telegraph that special security measures would be taken in Maoist-affected areas and other sensitive pockets to ensure smooth conduct of the elections.

Most of the political parties claimed that they were prepared for the polls. “We have made advance preparations. Only the candidate list will be announced by party chief Naveen Patnaik,” said BJD secretary general Damodar Rout.

BJP state president Suresh Pujari said: “We will start campaigning soon.”

The ruling BJD-BJP combine is, however, yet to finalise the seat sharing. “Discussions are on. It’s too premature to comment on seat sharing,” said Naveen.

Congress working president L.B. Mohapatra said his party was ready to take on the ruling BJD-BJP alliance.

Filing of nomination papers for the first phase would begin on March 23. The last date for filing of nominations would be March 30, while the scrutiny of papers would be done the next day. April 2 has been fixed as the last date for withdrawal of nomination papers for the first phase.

For the second phase, the filing of nomination papers would start on March 28 and conclude on April 4. Nomination papers would be scrutinised on April 6 and the last date for withdrawal would be April 8.

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