Polling for the by-election to Jharsuguda assembly seat in Odisha began at 7 am on Wednesday amid tight security measures, officials said. A total of 2,21,070 people are eligible to exercise their franchise in 253 booths. There are 1,10,320 male electors, 1,10,687 women and 63 of the third gender.
Polling will continue till 6 pm. Odisha's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Nikunj Bihari Dhal said all arrangements have been put in place to ensure peaceful voting. Over 1,000 poll officials and an adequate number of security personnel, including seven companies of paramilitary forces, have been deployed.
Jharsuguda Superintendent of Police Parmar Smit Parshottamdas said that CCTV cameras and deployment of micro-observers and central forces have been ensured in 106 booths identified as critical, besides 30 as demanded by various political parties.
He said 19 platoons comprising around 570 police personnel, besides 100 officers, have been deployed. Collector cum District Election Officer Aboli Sunil Naravane said this was the first time that webcasting was done in all the 253 polling stations.
The by-election was necessitated following the murder of sitting MLA and the then Health Minister Naba Kishore Das on January 29. Though nine candidates are in the fray, the contest is mainly between the BJD, BJP and Congress.
The BJD has fielded Das's daughter Deepali Das, while the BJP has nominated Tankadhar Tripathy. The Congress has fielded Tarun Pandey, the son of late MLA Biren Pandey. All the three candidates are debutant contestants. Votes will be counted on May 13.
The bypoll gains significance as it is the last election before the Lok Sabha polls next year. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had campaigned for BJD candidate Deepali Das, while Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Bisheswar Tudu had canvassed for BJP nominee Tankadhar Tripathy.