Voting slow in Orissa, Maoists attack polling stations (Lead)

Bhubaneswar, April 16 (Inditop) Maoists atacked four polling stations in Orissa in the first hours of voting Thursday. Around nine percent voter turnout was reported in Orissa during the first two hours, officials said.

“It (voting) was around nine percent by nine,” state’s additional chief electoral officer (CEO) Bhabagrahi Mohapatra told IANS. Polling had started at 7 a.m to elect 10 members to the Lok Sabha and 70 members to the state assembly.

“We have not received any written report of poll disruption in any part of the state so far,” he added.

However, police said Maoist rebels attacked at least four polling stations and set fire to several electronic voting machines and a vehicle in the state while voting was underway.

The rebels attacked four polling booths – three in Malkangiri district and one in Sundargarh district. Poling was affected in the three places,” Sudhanshu Sarangi, inspector general of police (anti-Maoist operations), told IANS.

The rebels attacked poll stations in Mahulpada village in Sundargarh and in Andrahill village and two places in the Kalimela area in Malkangiri.

“In Andrahill village, the rebels burnt voting machines and a poll vehicle,” Malkangiri superintendent of police Satyabrata Bhoi told IANS.

The Maoists have called for a complete boycott of the polls in the state. Malkangiri district is considered a stronghold of the guerrillas.

On Wednesday, the rebels felled trees and dug up roads in Malkangiri, Koraput and Rayagada districts to create hurdles for poll officials.

The fate of 72 candidates for 10 of the state’s 21 Lok Sabha seats and 599 candidates for 70 out of the 147 assembly seats will be decided by 12.6 million voters in the first phase Thursday. Polling in the remaining constituencies will be held April 23.

The prominent politicians among those testing their luck in the first phase include Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik from Hinjili assembly constituency and central government minister and Chandrasekhar Sahu (Congress) from Berhampur Lok Sabha constituency.

Former chief minister Giridhar Gamang and former central minister Jual Oram are contesting from Koraput and Sundargarh Lok Sabha seats respectively.