BHUBANESWAR: An estimated 11 per cent of the over 2.32 lakh electorate have exercised their franchise in the first two hours of voting for by-election to Bijepur Assembly seat in Odisha, an election official said.
Voting, which began at 7 AM, is underway in 285 polling stations with no untoward incident being reported from anywhere in the politically-sensitive constituency in western Odisha, he said.
The by-election to the seat was necessitated after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had won from two segments in the Assembly polls held in April this year, resigned from Bijepur and retained his home turf Hinjili in Ganjam district.
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Though the voters of Bijepur are participating in the third polls in less than two years since 2018, there was enthusiasm among people who turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.
By-election to this seat was held in 2018 after the death of Congress MLA Subal Sahu, followed by the general election in April 2019 and now another by-poll on Monday.
The BJD and the BJP are locked in a direct fight while the Congress is hoping to pull it off.
Elaborate arrangements have been made for conducting free and fair election in 285 polling stations where 2,32,264 people are eligible to exercise their franchise, Odisha's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), S K Lohani said.
As many as 129 polling stations in the constituency have been identified as critical, he said.
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Voting is scheduled to continue till 5 pm.
Concrete steps have been taken to ensure hassle-free voting in six polling stations, vulnerable to Left-wing extremism, he said.
Adequate security personnel have been deployed in the booths to ensure smooth polling, a senior police officer said.
Though there are five candidates in the fray, the contest is mainly between the nominee of the ruling BJD, Rita Sahu and BJP's Sanat Gartia.
Bijepur was earlier a Congress bastion.
The Congress has fielded its Bargarh district unit vice-president Dillip Kumar Panda, seen as a greenhorn, in the Assembly segment.
All political parties and the candidates have been warned of stringent action if they are found influencing the electorate through money, liquor or gifts, an official said.
Arrangements have been made for webcasting in 28 polling stations, while CCTVs are fitted in 14 polling stations.
As many as 77 micro-observers have been engaged to monitor the polling process and videography is being done in 16 polling stations, he said.
The counting of votes is scheduled to be held on October 24.