Bhubaneswar | Around 33 per cent of the over 76.93 lakh electorate exercised their franchise till 1 pm Thursday, as polling progressed peacefully in the five Lok Sabha and 35 assembly seats in Odisha, election officials said.
The electoral fortunes of 279 candidates, including Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union minister Jual Oram, will be decided in the second phase of voting.
While Patnaik, also the BJD chief, is in the fray from Hinjili and Bijepur assembly seats, Oram is contesting from the Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency.
Over 76.93 lakh voters will decide the fate of 279 candidates in Thursday’s polling. Out of the total electorate of 76,93,123, there are 37,47,493 women voters. At least 605 electors belong to the third gender.
“Approximately 33 per cent of the electorate have exercised their franchise till 1 PM. Polling is in progress in a peaceful and smooth manner and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere,” Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Surendra Kumar told reporters.
Long queues of voters were seen at polling stations in Aska, Kandhamal, Sundergarh, Bargarh and Bolangir Lok Sabha constituencies, and the 35 assembly segments coming under these areas, as polling commenced at 7 am.
Glitches in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were noticed in some booths and the defects were immediately resolved to pave the way for voting, he said, adding, the machines were replaced wherever necessary.
Voting was delayed due to the snag in around 50 booths in different places under Aska, Sundargarh, Kandhamal, Sundergarh and Bolangir constituencies, officials said.
Polling is in progress in a smooth and peaceful manner in remote areas of Naxal-hit Kandhamal, where Maoists gunned down a woman election official and set ablaze three vehicles on way to booths, in separate incidents on Wednesday, Kumar said.
An ex-gratia of around Rs 30 lakh will be paid to the family of the slain woman official, as per the guidelines of the EC in case of death caused by Naxal or terrorist attack, he said.
Kumar said additional force was deployed in Kandhamal in the aftermath of the Maoist attack to ensure smooth voting.
Security was also tightened in the Naxal-affected areas of Bargarh and Bolangir in view of a poll boycott call given by the Maoists, a senior police officer said.
Prominent among the early voters include BJD Rajya Sabha member and former Odisha minister Prasanna Acharya, and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who voted in Bargarh and Sundargarh, respectively, where they are also in the fray for Lok Sabha polls.
Repolling is also being held in two booths in Malkangiri (ST) and Berhampur assembly constituencies, following reports of glitches in EVMs during the first phase of polling on April 11.
Meanwhile, a report from Aska Lok Sabha constituency said a 95-year-old man, identified as Natabar Behera, collapsed while standing in the queue at a booth in Kansamari village under Sanakhemundi assembly segment, police said.
The man later died, a police officer said.
Lok Sabha and assembly elections are being held simultaneously in Odisha in four phases.