On the eve of the first phase of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Odisha, Maoists calls to boycott Thursday’s polls has prompted election authorities to resort to massive deployment of security forces in vulnerable areas of the state.
The first phase on Thursday will see elections to 10 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats and 70 out of 147 Assembly constituencies in Odisha. Of the 10 Lok Sabha constituencies, as many as eight are located in Maoist-infested districts.
According to sources in the office of the chief electoral officer, over 30,000 security personnel have been deployed for the smooth conduct of polls in the state’s Maoist-hit regions, the number of which has doubled since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Security personnel include state police, as well as paramilitary forces like the Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force. Out of the 17,266 polling booths that have been set up, 1,601 are in Maoist-infested pockets of different districts. Most of the constituencies that will go to polls in the first phase are located in southern and western parts of Odisha, which are known to be Maoist zones.
Special security arrangements have been made for vulnerable districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Nowrangpur and Rayagara, where bomb detection and disposal squads, as well as quick response teams, have been deployed to counter any untoward incident.
Three Indian Air Force choppers have been put into service to carry out aerial surveys in remote Maoist-hit areas and watch the movement of Left Wing ultras in the Koraput, Malkangiri and Nuapara districts.
Borders with neighbouring states like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have been sealed, with vehicles entering through check posts being thoroughly searched. “We are fully prepared to conduct a violence and trouble free election in the first phase on Thursday,” said a senior official in the office of the chief electoral officer.