Odisha set for last phase

Disruption of election process by the Maoists during the first phase of polling in Odisha last week has prompted the state election authorities to further strengthen the security arrangements for the second phase.

“We are taking no chances and have further strengthened security measures for the second phase of polling though, this time the number of naxal-infested constituencies are less compared to the first phase,” an election official said. 

The second and last phase of the elections for 11 Lok Sabha and 77 assembly constituencies in the state are scheduled for Thursday. The first phase of polling was held on April 10 for 10 Lok Sabha and 70 assembly seats.

Of the 11 Lok Sabha constituencies that would be going to the polls on Thursday, two — pockets of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar — are known as highly naxal-infested.
Both the tribal-dominated constituencies are located in north Odisha and have borders with two neighbouring states — Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Both the Lok Sabha as well as 14 assembly constituencies under them have been identified as highly sensitive and adequate forces have been sent there for smooth conduct of the polls. The constituencies’ border with both the states have also been sealed. In some of the border areas security forces had conducted flag march on Wednesday.

The pockets of coastal Jajpur Lok Sabha constituency and six out of seven assembly segments under them are also known as naxal-affected zone. Therefore, similar security arrangements have also been made in these pockets.

Chief Electoral Officer Mona Sharma said as many as 407 companies of armed police have been deployed in different areas for the smooth conduct of the polls during the second phase. They include 57 companies of central paramilitary forces. Of the 18,692 polling booths, 2,270 have been identified as sensitive or hyper-sensitive booths.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has also decided to conduct repolling in 22 booths on Thursday where polling was disrupted during the first phase for various reasons including, snatching, destruction and burning of electronics voting machines by Maoists. Of the 22 booths, 15 are located in Maoist-hit Malkangiri.

Heavy security arrangements have been made in these booths.

However, the repolling has become a challenge for the authorities because of the Maoists attack on a CRPF camp in Malkangiri on Tuesday.  

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