Odisha Channel Bureau
Bhubaneswar: A total of 77.2% of the 67.51 lakh voters have exercised their franchise in the first phase of panchayat elections in Odisha, the State Election Commission (SEC) has said.
The polling was held in 200 Zilla Parishad seats at 22,379 booths in 1,669 gram panchayats spread across 71 blocks of the state on February 16.
The voter turnout in Maoist-affected Malkangiri, Koraput and Kalahandi districts was encouraging, according to the SEC.
Boudh district registered the highest voters’ turnout of 84.7%, while migration prone Ganjam district recorded the lowest of 64.96%.
The districts that recorded more than 80% polling are Deogarh (83.75), Angul (82.6), Jharsuguda (82.1), Kalahandi (81.1), Subarnapur (81.56), Nabarangpur (80.54) and Koraput (80.2). Malkangiri recorded 77.86% polling.
Polling for 13 ward members, six Sarpanchs, three Panchayat Samiti members and one Zilla Parishad member was countermanded due to the death of contesting candidates.
With violence reported in some booths in the first phase of the election, the SEC has asked the state Director General of Police to ensure law and order in the remaining four phases of polling.
About 50 people were injured in different incidents of violence during the first phase polling.
The SEC has received recommendation from administrations of four districts for repolling in 25 booths. While Jajpur district administration has recommended repolling in 11 booths, Puri and Bhadrak have recommended repolling in five booths each, and Dhenkanal has recommended repolling in four booths. A decision in this regard soon will be taken by the SEC soon.
Meanwhile, police have arrested eight people for allegedly attacking journalists covering the polls in Puri district.
Three people, including a Sarpanch and a Samiti member candidate, have also been arrested for allegedly distributing liquor and cash to woo voters in Nayagarh district.
According to the State Election Commission, there were 3407 Zilla Parishad candidates contesting the elections in 853 Zilla Parishad zones.
While the state ruling Biju Janata Dal has fielded candidates in 851 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress are contesting 848 and 836 seats respectively.
35% seats decided uncontested
Nearly 35 per cent of the total 1.06 lakh seats were elected uncontested. Only Zilla Parishad members contest these elections with party symbols in the state, while those contesting for Panchayat Samiti Members, Sarpanchs and Ward Members have no party symbol.
The remaining four phases of polling will be held on February 18, February 20, February 22 and February 24. The votes will be counted at Block offices on February 26, 27 and 28.