Around 45 percent polling in Odisha till afternoon

Bhubaneswar:Polling has picked up for the 10 Lok Sabha and 70 assembly seats in Odisha with about 45 percent of the electorate casting their ballots till afternoon Thursday, an official said.

“We have recorded 42-45 percent polling till 1.45 p.m.,” an official from the chief electoral officer’s office told IANS.

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Polling was peaceful across the state except for some incidents in Maoist-hit Malkangiri district.

Miscreants set fire to a truck carrying electronic voting machines (EVMs) in Mathili area of the district Wednesday night. As a result, voting could not take place in four polling stations, Superintendent of Police Akhileshwar Singh told IANS.

People stood in long queues at the polling centres in many places before voting started at 7 a.m. Over 13 million electors are eligible to cast their votes in the first phase of elections in the state.

There are a total of 28,880,850 voters in the state.

Polling for the remaining 11 Lok Sabha and 77 assembly seats would be held in the second phase April 17.

Security was tight and paramilitary personnel and police have been deployed in vulnerable areas to ensure trouble-free polling.

Defying the boycott call given by the Maoists, people came out to exercise their franchise in the southern districts of Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Kalahandi and Kandhamal.

“People exercised their franchise in large numbers defying Naxal propaganda,” Inspector General of Police (South Western Range) Yaswant Jethwa told IANS.

Prominent candidates in the first phase are Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and two former chief ministers and senior Congress leaders, Giridhar Gomang and Hemananda Biswal.

State Revenue Minister Surya Narayan Patro, former union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jual Oram, state BJP president K.V. Singh Deo and Congress leader Narasingh Mishra are also in the fray.

Odisha saw intense campaigning by political heavyweights, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi, BJP chief Rajnath Singh and prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.