An estimated 11.4 voters are going to exercise their franchise, as the bypolls in Kandhamal began this morning amidst high security arrangements. The polling commenced at 7 AM and will continue till 4 PM. In total, seven candidates are in the fray in Kandhamal, but the main fight will be between Pratyusha Rajeswari Singh (BJD), Rudra Madhav Ray (BJP) and Abhimanyu Behera (Cong).
The bypolls were necessitated following the death of BJD MP Hemendra Chandra Singh on September 5. The entire state machinery, including top Ministers, MLAs, MPs and other BJD leaders have been camping in Kandhamal to ensure Pratyusha’s victory by a huge margin. Pratyusha, wife of late Hemendra Singh, also enjoys the sympathy wave. BJP’s campaign was spearheaded by seasoned politicians Bijoy Mohapatra, KV Singhdeo and Suresh Pujari. Union Ministers Jual Oram and Dharmendra Pradahan too campaigned for the BJP candidate. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held a series of meetings and rallies in Kandhamal to ensure BJD candidate’s victory.
Voting is being held in 1,497 polling stations across seven Assembly segments — Phulbani, G Udaygiri, Baliguda, Boudh, Kantamal, Bhanjanagar and Daspalla. 530 out of 1,497 polling booths, have been identified as sensitive. CRPF, BSF and state police personnel have been deployed to prevent any untoward incidents and ensure free and fair polling, as most parts of Kandhamal district are Maoist-affected. CCTV cameras and Web cameras have been installed at various locations.
In the last general elections, late Hemendra Singh (BJD) had defeated Harihar Karan (Congress) by 1.81 lakh votes. BJP candidate Sukant Panigrahi had finished third. This time, the Congress has fielded former MLA Abhimanyu Behera, while BJP has given the ticket to former BJD MP Rudhra Madhab Ray, who had turned rebel after being denied a ticket during the 2014 general elections.