BHUBANESWAR: COVID-safe election is going to be a permanent feature of the electoral system, said Chief Electoral Officer Sushil Kumar Lohani on Wednesday. As the pandemic does not seems to be going away any time soon, the COVID protocols put in place by the Election Commission of India (ECI) are likely to continue as long as the situation does not normalise, he said.
In an interview with The New Indian Express ahead of Pipili byelection on Thursday, Lohani said, "As it is difficult to say how Covid is going to behave, some precautions will continue to be in place in the foreseeable future to ensure that the stakeholders involved in the election process are safe and do not contract the virus."
On Pipili bypolls, the CEO said that they have ensured that all the polling personnel and manpower deputed by candidates including polling and counting agents are fully vaccinated. All voters will have to undergo thermal scanning before entering the polling booths.
Those having high temperature or COVID symptoms will be issued tokens to cast vote in the last one hour of the polling period. During this period, polling personnel will have to use PPE kits.
Lohani said the Election Commission has been successful in convincing people in the past during Tirtol and Balasore by-elections and he is hopeful that this time also, people will not fear COVID and come in large numbers to vote.
The Election Commission has made special arrangements for the differently-abled persons who desire to come to the booths to cast vote. Pick and drop and wheel-chair facility will be available for them at booth level.
There are 3,009 PwDs in the constituency. He said that so far 924 postal ballots have been collected from eligible voters from their place of residence. All polling stations have been sanitised and voting will begin at 7 am and continue till 6 pm. Around 200 odd booths are identified as sensitive where extra precautions and provision of web casting, video recording and micro observers have been made.
On the other hand, the CEO denied any links between Tuesday’s Balanga police station blast and the Pipili bypolls. The incident is being inquired by senior officials, he added. Lohani said that the security has been tightened in the poll-bound constituency because of the past history of poll violence.
BHUBANESWAR: Tight security arrangement has been put in place for Pipili bypoll. About 25 platoons of police force along with three companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have been deployed to ensure smooth elections.
A total of 348 polling booths have been divided into four zones with each supervised by three Additional SPs who are assisted by four deputy SPs.This apart, 10 check-posts have been set-up and over 850 officers and personnel, 32 mobile parties and six flying squads/static surveillance teams deployed to maintain law and order during the election on Thursday.
Candidates in Race
Rudra Maharathy (BJD)
Ashrit Pattanayak (BJP)
Biswakeshan Harichandan (Congress)
ARRANGEMENTS IN PLACE
Central forces, micro observers, cameras in 201 sensitive booths
1,490 polling personnel on duty
696 additional polling staff to ensure COVID-19 guidelines
There are 2.29 lakh voters in the constituency