Malkangiri, the main Maoist stronghold in Odisha, had a relatively peaceful election on Thursday, barring some incidents of snatching of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly by the ultras.
Malkangiri district, which is part of the Nabarangpur Lok Sabha constituency, had a voter turnout of 55%, said IGP Yashwant Jethwa.
“Despite the Maoist appeal for a poll boycott, people came out in large numbers to cast their votes in the first phase. This is an indication of the decline in the rebels’ impact in the district,” he said.
As many as 165 polling booths out of 525 were identified as sensitive in Malkangiri, which borders Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
At least 34 companies of the BSF or 3,400 personnel, eight units of Odisha’s elite anti-Maoist Special Operations Group (SOG) and two units of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) force were deployed in the district to ward off any Maoist attack. Two helicopters also provided aerial support to the poll process.
All that the Maoists could do was to snatch eight EVMs in the district. “Four EVMs were forcibly taken away on Wednesday night while another four were snatched when the polling party was returning after the polls,” Odisha chief electoral officer Mona Sharma said.