72 per cent turnout in peaceful Bijepur bypoll till 5 PM

Bhubaneswar: Around 72 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise in the by-election to the Bijepur Assembly seat in Odisha till 5 pm today, an election official said. Final voting percentage is likely to go up as people still are waiting in some booths to cast their votes.

Counting of votes would be undertaken on February 28.

The by-poll was necessitated due to the death of Congress MLA Subal Sahu in August last year.

"Polling is going on smoothly and peacefully, barring brief interruptions in some booths due to technical snags in Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines," the official said.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the by-poll in the constituency located in Bargarh district, especially in the wake of pre-poll violence in and around the area, officials said.

Around 2.21 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in 281 polling booths set up for the by-election, as against 270 booths used during the Assembly polls in 2014, according to Bargarh district Collector Yamini Sarangi.

"Of the 281 booths, 155 have been identified as critical. We have 12 dedicated squads to ensure free and fair polling in all the places," Sarangi said.

"Six check posts have also been set up in the border areas where vehicles coming from outside will be stopped and disallowed to enter Bijepur constituency," Bargarh SP Jai Narayan Pankaj said.

Security has been tightened following a series of violent incidents, including an attack on the brother of state Labour Minister Susanta Singh yesterday.

A total of five companies (500 personnel) of Central Paramilitary Force along with one company (85 personnel) of Odisha Swift Action Force have been deployed on poll duty, a senior police officer said.

This apart, 40 platoons (1,200 personnel) of state armed police have been deployed on poll duty, he said.

Late Congress leader Subal Sabu's wife Rita Sahu has been fielded this time by the ruling BJD. There are 13 other candidates in the fray including Ashok Panigrahi of BJP and Pranay Sahu of Congress. -PTI

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