Polling began on Monday for by-election to Padampur assembly constituency in Odisha’s Bargarh district, amid tight security arrangements, an Election Commission official said. Voting started at 7 am in all the 319 polling stations of the rural assembly segment and will continue till 4 pm, he said. Over 2.57 lakh voters, including 12 members of the transgender community, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the by-poll.
The by-election assumes significance in the wake of the BJD’s loss in Dhamnagar, its first such defeat since 2009, with many in political circles claiming that the result would also indicate if electoral scales were tilting against the Naveen Patnaik-led party ahead of the 2024 state elections. At least 1,400 police personnel and nine companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed for the by-election, the official said.
All the entry and exit points of the constituency were sealed as the assembly segment was earlier considered as a Maoist-infested area, he said. Seventy-nine polling booths are identified as ‘critical’, Odisha’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S K Lohani said. Webcasting of the polling process has been planned in 120 booths, while 66 would be under CCTV surveillance. There are 15 model booths and six pink ones, which have women security personnel and polling officials.
Pick-up and drop arrangements have been made for voters with physical disabilities, the EC official said.“Ninety-one micro observers have been engaged along with CAPF deployment in appropriate locations,” the CEO said.There are 10 candidates in the fray for the by-poll.
The ruling BJD fielded Barsha Singh Bariha, the daughter of Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha whose death necessitated the by-poll, while the opposition BJP’s nominee is the former MLA and party’s Krushak Morcha president Pradip Purohit. Congress’ candidate Satya Bhusan Sahu had won the seat three times earlier. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik campaigned for the BJD candidate, while Union ministers Narendra Sigh Tomar, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Dharmendra Pradhan and Bishweswar Tudu canvassed for Purohit. Votes will be counted on December 8.