Stray Violence in 3rd Phase of Odisha Panchayat Polls; 71% Voting Reported

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Nearly 71 per cent of the 56.53 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the third phase of the polling for the three-tier panchayat elections in Odisha, which was marred by sporadic violence on Sunday, an official said. The voter turnout in the first and second phases was 77.2 per cent and 78.3 per cent respectively. Polling began at 7 am and continued till 1 pm. The voting in left wing extremism hit Mathili and Podia block in Malkangiri and Phiringia block in Kandhamal district have been peaceful even as sporadic violence took place in coastal region of the state, State Election Commissioner AP Padhi said. Government officials including a block development officer (BDO), police personnel and journalists were attacked by groups of people who also looted ballot boxes in some places.

Police staged a flag march at Bachhola gram panchayat in Jajpur district where the journalists were assaulted and their vehicle damaged. District collectors and the director general of police were asked to take stringent action against the mischief mongers, Padhi said.

Earlier during the first phase of polling on February 16, four journalists of local TV channels were attacked near a booth in Puri district. Scribes have moved the SEC demanding security for them. In Rayagada district, security forces seized an explosive planted at a bridge near the Niyamgiri hills on Sunday morning. It is suspected that it was planted by Maoists to disrupt the polls.

A group of people looted a ballot box from a polling booth at Railima village in Rayagada district after finding names of many villagers missing from the voter list. A similar incident was reported from Kendrapada district also, the State Election Commission said. Tension erupted at Gokhani under Dera Panchayat after a person, whose name does not figure in the voter list, was made an agent in the booth. The disruption started when some voters raised objection. People attacked police personnel when they tried to resolve the matter. The remaining two phases of polling will be held February 22 and 24. Votes will be counted on February 26, 27 and 28.

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