Bargarh: Polling is underway to elect the next MLA of Bijepur Assembly constituency in Odisha’s Bargarh district amid tight security.
On Saturday morning, people lined up at all 281 polling booths with their voter identity cards in the constituency, which comprises Bijepur, Barpali and Gaisilet blocks. Polling began at 8 am and will end at 5 pm.
The byelection, necessitated by the death of Subala Sahu (Cong) in August, has upped the political ante with the ruling BJD, BJP and Congress making a prestige issue. While Subala’s widow Rita is contesting on a BJD ticket, Ashok Panigrahi and Pranaya Sahu are nominees of BJP and Congress respectively. Ten other candidates are also in the fray.
Polling was delayed in booth number 88, 102 and 141 in Bijepur block and booth number 20 in Barpali Block due to technical snag in Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.
Polling resumed in these booths, except booth number 141, after the engineers put the machines in order. Till reports last came in, the engineers were trying to restore the VVPAT machine at booth number 141. For the first time in Odisha, the VVPAT machines are used in the Bijepur bypoll.
While BJD candidate Rita cast her vote in booth number 19, Congress candidate Pranaya cast his vote at booth number 207.
A maximum of 2,21,144 voters will exercise their franchise to elect the candidate of their choice.
Of the 281 booths, 155 booths have been identified as sensitive. Besides, CCTV cameras have been put up in 20 booths while micro poll observers from the Centre are in charge of 40 booths.
Arrangements have been made to photograph and videograph the poll proceedings in each booth.
To ensure free and fair poll, elaborate security has been put in place in the constituency.
A total of 12 flying squads including three are static surveillance squad and three video surveillance squads have been formed. The squads will rush to the concerned booths if it receives any information relating to rigging and law and order. Apart from this, six check posts have also been set up in the border areas where vehicles coming from outside are not allowed to enter Bijepur constituency,
5 platoons of CRPF and BSF jawans and 36 platoons of Odisha State Armed Police (OSAP) force have been deployed in Bijepur while one company of CRPF personnel is in charge of guarding the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. Besides, 30 Inspectors, 150 Sub Inspectors and 40 mobile parties have been pressed into service.
As per the directive of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), necessary instructions have been given to the police to raid the hotels and guest houses in Bargarh district, keep a close watch on the vehicular movement between Bargarh and Chhattisgarh along the border areas, take immediate action against illegal liquor trade and money transactions, provide security all candidates contesting the elections.
Going by the Election Commission’s notification, counting of votes and announcement of results will be made on on February 28.
The election process would be completed by March 3.