Voting for the first phase of election in four Parliamentary and 28 Assembly constituencies in Odisha ended Thursday with 66 per cent of the six million eligible voters casting their votes by 5 pm, officials.said.
Simultaneous elections are being held in the state to the 147-member Assembly and 21 Lok Sabha constituencies.
The first phase of polling started from 7 am across 7,233 booths with thousands of first-time voters thronging the polling booths. Of the six million voters, 2.97 million were male and 3.03 million were female. The Election Commission deployed central paramilitary forces in 2,375 ‘Critical Polling Stations’. While 26 candidates were in the fray for 4 Lok Sabha seats, there were 191 candidates for the 28 Assembly seats in the first phase of the elections. Of the 26 Lok Sabha candidates, only two are women while there are 16 women among 191 Assembly candidates.
ମହିଳାମାନେ ହିଁ ବିକାଶର ପ୍ରକୃତ ଡବଲ ଇଞ୍ଜିନ। ମହିଳାଙ୍କ ସଶକ୍ତିକରଣରେ ହିଁ ରାଜ୍ୟ ତଥା ଦେଶର ପ୍ରଗତି ସମ୍ଭବ। ଆମ ମିଶନଶକ୍ତି କାର୍ଯ୍ୟକ୍ରମ ୭୦ ଲକ୍ଷ ମହିଳାଙ୍କୁ ସଶକ୍ତ କରି ରାଜ୍ୟରେ ଏକ ନୀରବ ବିପ୍ଳବ। ଆମ ଆସ୍କା ଲୋକସଭା ପାର୍ଥୀ ପ୍ରମିଳା ବିଶୋଇ ହେଉଛନ୍ତି ସେହି ସଶକ୍ତ ମିଶନଶକ୍ତି ମହିଳାମାନଙ୍କ ପ୍ରତିନିଧି। #ଘରେଘରେଶଙ୍ଖ
Naveen Patnaik यांनी वर पोस्ट केले गुरुवार, ११ एप्रिल, २०१९
There was also a large turnout of voters in Maoist-affected Malkangiri district despite a call by the rebels to boycott the elections.
“We have been successful in conducting the first phase of polls in a free, fair and peaceful manner. There has been no untoward incident whatsoever reported in the polls. The failure rate of EVMs has been under 1%,” ANI quoted Odisha’s chief electoral officer Surendra Kumar as saying.
Unlike the 2014 polls which were held in a much-colourful and racuous setting, the 2019 election was almost dull. With Election Commission closely watching the election campaign, very few banners or posters were seen in the first phase. Instead parties held more rallies to attract the voters.
Like 2014, the fighting is triangular in the 28 assembly and four Lok Sabha constituencies in the first phase. In Nabarangpur and Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituencies, BJD, BJP and Congress were engaged in a close fight while in Koraput Lok Sabha constituency, BJP and BJD were locked in an intense struggle. In Berhampur Lok Sabha seat, BJD and Congress were engaged in close fight.
Union petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the election in Odisha is being fought in the name of Modi. “There is no governance in Odisha and atrocities against women are going up. Lakhs of Odia youths are forced to migrate to metro cities for jobs. Corruption is rampant in the government. People of Odisha are in a mood for change,” said Pradhan.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik brushed off the allegations saying BJP never had any concern for Odisha. “The BJD would do very well. The BJP leaders are here only during elections. In times of cyclone or other natural disasters, no central leaders are visible,” said Patnaik.
The election campaign was dominated by issues of farm distress and women’s reservation. As rising farm distress toppled the BJP governments in Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan last year, chief minister Patnaik started Rs 10000 a year cash assistance scheme for small, marginal and landless farmers of the State. In a clear message to women voters, Patnaik also gave tickets to women in 33 per cent of Lok Sabha seats.
Congress on the other hand, talked about Rs 2600 maximum support price for paddy and assured of loan waiver. Prime Minster Narendra Modi, who led the BJP campaign in the State, invoked nationalism and spoke about India’s air strike in Balakot to woo first-time voters.
While Congress did not have any rally involving either Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi, BJP held more than two dozen rallies including at least half-a-dozen rallies by PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah. BJP which has been focussing on Odisha in the last two years as part of its Mission East programme has set its sights on winning at least a dozen of the 21 Lok Sabha seats.
The BJD on the other hand stuck to its pet theme of central neglect as chief minister Patnaik went around holding roadshows in a specially-designed high-tech bus. Patnaik, who is battling anti-incumbency after ruling the State for four consecutive terms, is banking on Kalia scheme, a Rs 10180 crore direct cash assistance scheme for farmers and Mission Shakti, a women self help group programme to see him though. To quell rumours about Patnaik’s health, last week BJD released a small video clip of the CM exercising in his gym and jogging in the corridors his home in Bhubaneswar.
In their manifestos, the BJP and the Congress focussed on farmers, women and the unemployed in the state. BJP promised a corruption-free, dynamic government, Rs one lakh crore investment in irrigation, zero interest rate loans to farmers, and said all vacant government jobs would be filled up in five years. The Congress in its manifesto promised farm loan waiver and minimum support price of Rs 2,600 for paddy. The party also promised 33 per cent quota for women in Parliament, state assembly and all government jobs.
When the Election Commission halted the disbursal of money under Kalia scheme citing violation of model code of conduct, Patnaik said it was the handiwork of BJP and warned that farmers will give the saffron party a befitting reply in the polls.
Congress, which is the main opposition party, was hobbled by intense infighting as many of its leaders including the president of its women’s wing quit the party protesting ticket distribution. Many candidates even returned their tickets expressing deep dissatisfaction over the way the tickets were distributed at the last moment.