The first phase of General Elections in Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Koraput, Malkangiri, Ganjam and Kalahandi districts were by and large peaceful on Thursday amid stray incidents of delay in voting and complaints over lack of facilities for voters.
Maoist call for boycotting polls had no impact in Kalimela and Motu areas of Malkangiri district.
Unlike the last General Elections, the Maoist hotbed of Badigeta village under Kalimela block limits recorded a large number of voters that included Koya tribals from eight villages. The Koyas waited outside booth no 294 under Malkangiri Assembly segment throughout the day to exercise their franchise under the hawk-eye vigil of the Border Security Forces (BSF) deployed there. These eight Koya inhabited villages were clubbed with hyper-sensitive Badigeta booth this time owing to security reasons. Badigeta booth with 1,035 voters had witnessed zero polling in 2014 General Elections due to Maoist threat. Booths 264 and 266 in Kalimela and Motu areas also recorded good turnout.
In a tragic incident, an elderly man died while waiting outside Nalagunthi booth under MV 79 to vote. He was Bhima Kawasi of Nalaguthi village.
In Rayagada, the Dongria Kondhs residing in Niyamgiri hills got their fingers inked despite a boycott call by Maoists and no untoward incident was reported. In some areas, voters complained of lack of shade and drinking water facilities at polling stations which delayed the voting process. With mercury hovering around 40 degree C, voters had a harrowing time standing under scorching heat condition outside the nearly 300 booths in the district including Indira Nagar and RK Nagar within Town limits.
Though the voters’ attendance was thin in the first half of the day, it picked up towards noon. Voting in the Maoist-hit pockets was closed at 4 pm. District Election Officer Pramod Kumar Behera said the exact polling percentage would be known late in the night.
At Nabarangpur district, there was huge turnout of voters. Till filing of this report, the district witnessed 80 per cent (pc) polling. Among the large number of voters in Nabarangpur town was Md Baji, the only surviving freedom fighter of the district. The 104-year-old wheelchair bound Baji, who exercised his franchise at Sunari booth, said he has been never missed a chance to vote in his lifetime and urged young voters to believe in democracy.
Under the Berhampur Lok Sabha constituency, polling was delayed in most of the Assembly segments due to defunct EVMs. Besides, power supply in many booths was disrupted which irked voters who were waiting outside in sweltering heat to vote. By 5 pm, Chatrapur segment had recorded 61.8 pc polling, Gopalpur 49.6, Berhampur 49.16, Digapahandi 52.8, Chikiti 50.8, Paralakhemundi 64.4 and Mohona 69.8 pc.Gajapati district under the constituency recorded an overall 67 pc polling. While 69.8 pc was recorded in Mohana Assembly segment, it was 64 pc in Parlakhemundi.
In Kalahandi, polling picked up only in the noon and continued till late in the evening. Till 5 pm, 66 pc polling was recorded. Here too, poll boycott call by ultras had no impact in Trilochanpur gram panchayat under Lanjigarh block. At Koraput, over 60 pc of voting was recorded till evening. Due to snags in EVMs, polling was delayed in many places.
Festive look at model booths
Parlakhemundi: THE model booths in Parlakhemundi Assembly segment wore a festive look on Thursday. Replete with a selfie zone, waiting room for women, playing room for children, help desk, first aid centre with a doctor and chilled drinking water facilities, 10 such booths that were decked up with flowers saw happy voters exercising their franchise in large numbers. For 65-year-old Indira Panigrahy who voted at the model booth in Mahendragiri High School, voting was a comfortable experience for the first time. “The arrangement were such that it took care of all the needs of a voter”, she said. For the first time, a pink polling station had also come up in this model booth which was manned by women polling officials. An officer in charge of the model booth, Ashok Rout said all measures were put in place for comfort of voters.