The first of the two-phased simultaneous elections to the 10 Lok Sabha and 70 assembly seats in the Maoist belt in Odisha began today amidst tight security in view of the poll boycott called by the extremists.
The constituencies where polling is on are spread over the western and southern areas of Odisha and more than 50 of the 70 assembly segments are in the Maoist-affected areas.
With heat wave conditions intensifying in the areas, many voters were seen queuing up in front of booths since the early hours to avoid the scorching sun later.
The Lok Sabha constituencies where polling is on are Kandhamal, Koraput, Kalahandi, Bargarh, Bolangir, Berhampur, Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Aska, Nabarangpur.
Today's polling will decide the political fortunes of a total 98 candidates, including former Congress chief ministers Giridhar Gamang and Hemanand Biswal, former union ministers Jual Oram (BJP) and Bhakta Charan Das (Congress).
Hockey star and former Indian team captain Dilip Tirkey is contesting from Sundargarh LS seat on a BJD ticket.
He is pitted against Hemanand Biswal of Congress and Oram.
Prominent Odia cinestar Siddhant Mohapatra is the BJD candidate from Berhampur Lok Sabha seat.
A total 673 aspirants are in the reckoning for 70 assembly seats and an electorate of 1,36,46989 voters, including 66,62,309 women, will cast their ballots in total of 17,266 booths.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is seeking re-election from Hinjili constituency in Ganjam district.
The EC has engaged 156 companies of central para military force (CPMF), besides about 27,000 personnel of the state police to ensure free and fair elections.
In vulnerable polling stations, the police have decided to operate in a cluster manner.
Besides, arrangements have been made for video recording in all polling stations for which 533 video cameras, 2546 still cameras are being used and web casting in on 205 in polling booths, official sources said.
A total 2057 booths have been identified as sensitive.
In view of the situation, poll timing has been reduced by two hours in 56 assembly segments where voting will be held between 7 am and 4 pm. In the rest 14 assembly segments voting will be held will be 7 AM to 6 PM.
While borders with neighbouring states have been sealed as a precautionary measure, three Indian Air Force choppers have been pressed into service for transportation of polling materials and personnel as also aerial surveillance.
For the first time, voters have an option to reject candidates as there is a provision to use the NOTA option.
Polling in the remaining 11 Lok Sabha and 77 assembly constituencies in the state is scheduled on April 17.