Huge turnout in Cuttack

About 68.13 per cent of the 56.26 lakh electorate exercised their franchise in the first phase of panchayat polls on Saturday, which remained peaceful, barring stray incidents of violence and snatching of ballot boxes.

Polling was held for 194 Zilla Parishad seats in 82 blocks spread over 30 districts of the State. Counting was also taken up. Results will be announced on February 22.

Cuttack district registered the maximum turnout of 87 per cent while Maoist-affected Malkangiri, where four BSF jawans were killed in an IED blast triggered by red rebels on Friday, recorded the minimum turnout of 52 per cent. The elections for the remaining four phases are slated to be held on February 13, 15, 17 and 19.

Polling was by and large peaceful barring stray incidents of violence. A sarpanch candidate’s father-in-law was killed following a group clash in Badagurundi panchayat of Kaniha area near Talcher. Thirteen persons have been held in this connection.

The State Election Commission (SEC) has ordered repolling in nine places from where snatching of ballot papers and rigging were reported. The booths where repolling will be held on February 19 are: Madhuban in Gudari block of Rayagada district, Arjunpur and Dhusuri in Dhamnagar block of Bhadrak, Dibyasinghpur in Bramhagiri block and Sahupada in Kanas block of Puri district, Saladei and Pandua in Ghasipura block of Keonjhar district, Alaka in Badachana block of Jajpur, Barang in Cuttack district, Simulia in Kantamal block of Boudh district, four booths in Aska block of Ganjam district and booth No. 9 in Nadiali of Dhenkanal district.

According to unconfirmed reports received from different parts after the first phase polls, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is heading towards a massive victory in the Zilla Parishad polls. About 70 to 80 per cent of the ZP seats in the first phase polls have gone to the BJD.

The Congress has so far drawn a blank in Bargarh, Deogarh, Kalahandi, Jagatsinghpur, Dhenkanal, Balangir, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Ganjam and Puri districts. Results from other districts are also not encouraging for the principal opposition political party. More than 90 per cent of the ZP seats in Balasore district have been won by the BJD. Congress has done tolerably good in Sundargarh district.

Trends from Kalahandi district, considered to be a stronghold of the Congress since the last Assembly poll, has been discouraging for the party. However, mixed results have been received for the panchayat samiti, sarpanch and ward members election, which were contested without party symbols.

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