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Campaign Ends For Phase I

Bhubaneswar: The high-pitched campaign for the first phase of the three-tier panchayat elections on February 16 ended here on Monday evening.

As per the schedule, the first phase polling will be held on February 16 for 200 Zilla Parishad seats, 1,669 Sarpanch posts, 1,669 Samiti member seats and 22,379 Ward Member posts in 71 blocks of 30 districts.

 A total of 67.51 lakh people will exercise their franchise, the SEC informed.

While polling parties have already left for the booths in 11 districts on Monday, another batch will reach the polling stations on Tuesday; the official said adding that the polling will be held between 7 Am and 1 PM this time.

Earlier, the polling timing was between 7 AM to 12 noon in 2017 general elections for the three tier panchayat elections.

Though all the MLAs, MPs and senior leaders of three major parties like BJD, BJP and Congress undertook campaigning in different parts of the state, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik did not campaign for his party candidates this time also.

 Patnaik also did not campaign in the rural polls during 2017.

Similarly, OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik, who was infected with COVID-19 few days ago, also kept himself away from campaigning while BJP state president Samir Mohanty actively participated in the campaign.

However, the saffron party’s two faces– Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Ashiwini Vaishnav- also did not campaign for the BJP candidates even as MPs and former Union Minister Pratap Sarangi and Jual Oram actively joined the campaigning.

The parties this time also tried to woo the voters by roping in film stars to campaign for them.

While Ollywood popular actress Varsha Priyadarshini campaigned for the BJD candidate in Brahmapur panchayat of Bhadrak Block, another Odia film actor Asrumochan Mohanty campaigned for Jagya Hentala, BJP’s Zilla Parishad candidate from Zone-2 of Borigumma Block in Koraput.

The Chhattisgarh’s Excise Minister Kawasi Lakhan campaigned for the Congress candidates in Rayagada’s Kasipur and Tikiri, and in Bisamcuttack and Munniguda.

Several Ollywood actors including Tamanna, Poonam and Debashis campaigned for the BJD with local MLAs.

Meanwhile, the police have made elaborate security arrangements with focus on left wing extremism affected districts where the Maoists have appealed to the people to boycott panchayat elections.

“Special security arrangements have been made in the districts of Malakngiri, Koraput, Kalanadi, Bolangir, Rayagada and Kandhamal in view of the Maoist presence in those districts,” said a senior police officer engaged in the anti-maoist operations.

SEC, Odisha A P Padhi said the arrangements have been made for video recording at sensitive booths and CCTV have been installed at counting and strong rooms where ballot boxes to be stored after the polling.