ROURKELA: Hundreds of voters failed to exercise their franchise at different booths of RN Pali Assembly constituency, which is under the territorial jurisdiction of Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) due to confusion in poll timing. As per the notification of Election Commission of India (ECI) and Odisha Gazette Notification, the voting timing for RN Pali and Bonai Assembly segments in Sundargarh Parliamentary constituency was fixed from 7 am to 4 pm as they were identified as Maoist-hit areas.
Sources said voters reaching the polling stations after 4 pm were denied entry into the polling booths leading to widespread resentment.Confusion arose as areas of RN Pali and Rourkela Assembly segments overlap at several areas. Since for Rourkela Assembly segment, the closing time was 6 pm, the affected voters of RN Pali assumed the same timing for their constituency. They alleged that voters’ slip also mentioned 6 pm as the closing time.
Incidentally, the RN Pali Assembly segment comprises 19 sectors of Rourkela Industrial Township (RIT) of RSP and seven Maoist-affected gram panchayats of Lathikata block. A senior police officer said the RIT limits of RSP is not affected by Left Wing Extremism. But since two voting timings cannot be allowed for an Assembly segment, RN Pali was accorded closing time of 4 pm.
Reports said denied entry to the polling stations after 4 pm at the NAC (ST) Primary School of Sector-6, around 200 voters reacted angrily. They said they were denied their democratic right to vote.Rourkela SP Sarthak Sarangi rushed to the spot and pacified them citing the ECI notification. Similar situation prevailed at the booths of Sector-16 and other areas. Panposh Sub-Collector and Returning Officer Biswajit Mohapatra said polling was held in strict adherence to the ECI guidelines and they have no authority to entertain voters after 4 pm.