Not a single person turned up to vote in 15 polling booths in Odisha during the first phase of India’s election

A view of the sand art for voter awareness with the message "Vote for a better India" made by sand artist Manas Kumar Sahoo at Puri beach in OdishaIANS

  • Election officials from 15 polling booths in Odisha returned empty handed as five panchayats did not show up to vote on the first day of the general election in India.
  • In the run up to the election, Maoist poster campaigns surfaced asking people not to vote.
  • But some villages reported that their reasons to not vote had nothing to do with the perceived left wing extremism.
The first phase of the Indian general elections was marred by violent clashes in Andhra Pradesh and improvised explosive devices going off in Maharashtra, but in Odisha — 15 polling booths remained silent waiting for voters than would never show.

State administration has confirmed that in Malkangiri district, which consists of two separate constituencies — Malkangiri and Chitrakonda — zero polling was registered as voters from five panchayats (formalised local self-governance at a village level) did not show up to participate.

Fifty four officers on election duty were specially airlifted on Wednesday to these areas to make sure that the booths would be operational. But they all returned empty handed once the polling booths closed in the evening at four.

In the run up to the election, Maoist posters began to surface — asking people to ‘boycott the polls’ because real benefits can only be derived from armed struggle, not votes.

Even so, voters from one of the villages, Temurupalli, claim that the reason they did not go to vote wasn’t because of the perceived left wing extremism, but because the booths were just too far. And, people from the village of Tamasaput say they boycotted the election because no development work was conducted in their area.

The polling booths are Andrapali, Jantri, Sanyasiguda, Handikhalo, Panasaput, Singhai, Gorasetu and Jodamba were also desolate.

Aside from Odisha, Maharashtra also had to bear the brunt of Naxalite activity, which is a more extreme form of Maoism. Four polling stations will re-poll in the coming phases of the elections because polling teams were unable to reach the designated sites.

Despite 15 booths lying bare on election day, Odisha still witnessed an overall 68% voter turnout during the first phase of the general election. The majority of Maoist-hit areas will be covered in the first three phases.
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