MLA breaks EVM, attacks polling officer in Odisha; nearly 61 pc voter turnout recorded

Bhubaneswar, May 25 (PTI) A sitting MLA and BJP candidate allegedly broke an EVM and attacked a polling officer inside a booth during voting in Odisha which recorded a voter turnout of over 60.97 per cent in six Lok Sabha seats and 42 assembly segments, officials said.

Two persons – a woman polling officer and a polling agent – died during voting in different booths in Barabati-Cuttack and Hindol assembly segments. An elderly woman voter who fell ill inside a polling booth in Nayagarh assembly seat died in a hospital, officials said.

BJP’s Khurda assembly segment candidate Prasant Jagdev, who is the sitting MLA of Chilika, was detained for allegedly barging into the booth along with his followers, breaking an EVM and assaulting a polling officer injuring him seriously.

Officials said the incident followed an altercation inside a booth in Begunia assembly segment, where he had gone to cast his vote.

Jagdev, who joined BJP after being expelled from BJD, later staged a dharna in a police station against his “illegal detention”.

The ruling BJD also lodged a complaint against the BJP nominee with Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) NB Dhal.

“We maintain zero tolerance to violence. Appropriate action will be taken based on the CCTV footage,” Dhal said.

The BJP also demanded the arrest of BJD’s Chhendipada MLA Sushant Behera accusing him of attacking saffron party workers during voting.

The CEO’s office also received reports of several other minor incidents of unrest from Brahmagiri, Athagarh and some other places, officials said.

Voting was held in Sambalpur, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Puri parliamentary constituencies along with 42 assembly segments within the jurisdiction of these Lok Sabha seats.

There were 64 candidates in the fray for the six Lok Sabha seats while the number of nominees for 42 assembly segments was 383.

The prominent candidates whose fates have been sealed in the EVM included Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJP’s Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi and the party’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra.

Four Odisha ministers – RP Swain, Prafulla Mallick, Basanti Hembram and Ashok Panda – are also in the fray.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik walked all along to the Aerodrome Upper Primary School near his residence here to cast his vote. “We will form a stable government in the state,” he told reporters.

Around 60.97 per cent of the over 94.48 lakh electorate exercised their franchise, officials said adding that the figure could rise.

In Bhubaneswar, a woman on oxygen support demonstrated her commitment by casting her vote at a polling booth while in Puri, a 97-year-old man protested after not finding his name in the voters’ list by lying down inside a booth.

A large number of people expressed frustration over EC’s curbs on carrying mobile phones to polling booths. Some even returned home without casting their votes over restrictions on using phones.

Responding to it, Dhal in a statement said, “Since mobile phones are not allowed inside the booth, people can deposit it at a designated spot up outside booths and collect it after voting.”

As many as 35,000 security personnel including 121 companies of central forces have been deployed in different booths.

Chief Secretary P K Jena, DGP Arun Kumar Sarangi and many other senior leaders including BJP national vice-president Baijayant Panda also cast their votes in different booths of Bhubaneswar.

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