Around 50 percent voting in riot-torn Kandhamal

Bhubaneswar, April 16 (Inditop) Elections passed off peacefully in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, with around 50 percent voter turnout, an official said Thursday. The district witnessed communal riots last year that killed 38 people.

“As per the preliminary estimate the voting was around 50 percent. It may go up a little because half the polling stations are located in the interior areas and we are yet to get the full details,” District Collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.

Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram August 23, 2008.

At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after being attacked by rampaging mobs. About 3,170 people are still living in government-run relief camps.

“Nearly 80 percent of the voters living in the relief camps also exercised their franchise in their respective polling stations with the help of local administration,” Kumar said.

There were apprehensions of trouble after Ashok Sahu, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for the Kandhamal Lok Sabha constituency, was arrested Tuesday for delivering an inflammatory speech last week.

The Maoists had also called for a boycott of the polls.

“However no untoward incident has been reported from any part of the district. The elections passed off peacefully,” Kumar said.

The first phase of election was held Thursday for 10 Lok Sabha seats and 70 assembly constituencies in Orissa. The next phase in the state will be held April 23.