Polling underway for 6 LS & 42 Assembly seats in Odisha

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Amid hot and humid conditions, voters were seen lined up before the polling booths much before 7 am, the scheduled time, in Odisha as polling began for six Lok Sabha and 42 Assembly seats spread over 10 districts under tight security.

An estimated 94.41 lakh voters, including 48,26,375 male voters, 46,14,134 female voters, and 956 transgender voters, will exercise their franchise to elect six Lok Sabha MPs from 64 candidates and 42 MLAs from 383 candidates in the penultimate phase of the election, held across 10,551 polling booths.

The six Lok Sabha seats going to the polls are Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Puri, Dhenkanal (all in the coastal belt), Sambalpur ( Western Odisha), and Keonjhar (Northern Odisha), along with the 42 Assembly seats falling under these parliamentary constituencies.

At least 20 percent of the total polling booths are declared critical, and 2,000 booths are designated as model booths, while 1,500 booths will be managed exclusively by female personnel.

Among the heavyweights whose electoral fortunes will be decided by 6 PM today in the six Lok Sabha elections are Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP Spokesperson Dr. Sambit Patra, Bhubaneswar sitting MP and BJP spokesperson Aparajita Sarangi, six-time MP Bhartruhari Mahtab (all from the BJP), BJD organizational secretary Pranab Prakash Das, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, ex-director of corporate affairs of Aditya Birla Group Santrupta Mishra from the ruling BJD, and Odisha Chhatra Congress President Sayed Yashir Nawaz from the Congress.

Similarly, in the 42 Assembly seats, the prominent candidates whose fate will be sealed today include BJD veterans and former ministers Debi Prasad Mishra and Prasanna Acharya, two council of ministers Ashok Chandra Panda and Ranendra Pratap Swain, five former BJD ministers, and several sitting MLAs.

Other heavyweights whose fate will be sealed today are the leader of opposition in the Odisha Assembly Jaya narayan Mishra (BJP), former Odisha Congress President Jaydeb Jena, eminent journalist-turned-politician Soumyaranjan Pattnaik, prominent trade union leader Sanatan Mahakud, and Pruthivi Ballav Pattnaik, son of former Chief Minister J. B. Pattnaik.

All six Lok Sabha and 42 Assembly seats will witness a multi-cornered contest, but the real battle for the ballots will be mostly confined to the ruling BJD, BJP, and Congress, the major opposition party in the state.

As many as 35,000 security forces, including 121 companies of Central Armed Police Forces, 106 platoons of the Odisha Armed Police Forces, 19,865 civil police forces, and 10,212 constables and 7,117 home guards, were deployed to maintain law and order during this phase of the election.

Odisha DGP Arun Sarangi said 84 DSPs will supervise the law and order (2 for each Assembly segment) with striking force, while one to half a section of CAPF will be deployed in all sensitive booths.

As many as 763 mobile parties have been deployed in the election, while CCTVs have been installed at 17 inter-state border check posts and 116 intra-state border check posts.

Moreover, the DGP said 116 Flying Squad Teams and 331 Static Surveillance Teams have also been deployed, and EVM strong rooms are being established at 25 locations, guarded round the clock by CAPF and SAP in a two-tiered security system.

According to the Chief Electoral Officer, 2.5 percent of the total voters are new voters, while 21 percent are youth in the age group of 20 to 29 years.

A joint survey conducted by the Odisha Election Watch and ADR revealed that 154 crorepatis, 28 of them from the six Lok Sabha seats, and 114 candidates who have declared criminal cases pending against them are in the fray.

In the 2019 elections, out of the six Lok Sabha seats, the ruling BJD captured four, with the rest being garnered by the BJP. In the 42 Assembly seats, the ruling BJD won 34 seats, the BJP six, and the Congress captured two Assembly seats.

In the last two phases of polling on May 13 and May 20, elections were held in nine Lok Sabha seats and 63 Assembly seats. While in the first phase, the voter turnout was 75.08 percent, in the second phase, 70.50 percent of voters exercised their franchise.

In the last phase of elections, six more Lok Sabha and 42 Assembly seats will be contested on June 1.

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