The counting of votes for bypoll to the Pipili assembly constituency in Odisha's Puri district began at 8:00 am on Sunday amid tight security, officials said. The by-election to the constituency was held on September 30 as the seat was vacant for about a year, following the death of sitting BJD MLA Pradeep Maharathy in October 2020.
The Election Commission had countermanded or deferred the by-election thrice due to various reasons. The electoral fate of 10 candidates, including ruling BJD's Rudrapratap Maharathy, BJP's Ashrit Pattnaik and Congress nominee Bishwokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra, will be decided.
A three-layer security arrangement is in place at the counting centre at Penthakota Warehouse, an official said. As many as 72 government officials have been engaged in the counting process, said Odisha's ief electoral officer SK Lohani.
The counting of votes in EVMs will begin in two halls at 8.30 am after counting postal ballots in another hall. To avoid crowding at the counting tables, live feeds of the halls are being broadcast on large screens outside the centre, he said.
The results of five Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) and EVMs will be randomly matched after the counting is over, he said. Three additional AROs (additional returning officers) have been appointed for the counting and the process will be supervised by an election observer, he said.
Candidates are authorised to engage one counting agent at each table, he said. "Only the Election Commission-authorised media personnel will be allowed to enter the counting centre in batches. They will be escorted by the polling staff. They can visit the counting centre without a camera or any recording device and return after observing it," he said.
The Pipili assembly segment is considered as the fort of the ruling BJD as its member Pradeep Maharathy won the seat five times in a row from 2000. Though the bypoll was scheduled to take place on April 17, it was countermanded after Congress candidate Ajit Mangaraj succumbed to COVID-19 three days before polling.
Later, voting was scheduled to be held on May 13 and May 16 but it was also deferred. Apart from the counting centre, security has been beefed up in Piipli and Delang as a precautionary measure as the areas have a history of poll violence, a police officer said.
(Edited by : Jomy Jos Pullokaran)
First Published: IST