Odisha bypolls: Counting of votes amid strict COVID protocol on Tuesday

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 9 (PTI) All arrangements are in place for counting of votes polled in the Balasore and Tirtol assembly by-elections in Odisha amid strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines, officials said on Monday.

The counting of votes for the Balasore bypolls will be held at the campus of the district collector's office, while in Tirtol, it will be held at the SVM College premises in Jagatsinghpur, Chief Electoral Officer SK Lohani said.

The counting at both the places will start at 8 am on Tuesday, he said.

Three-tier security has been arranged at the counting venues with personnel of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) guarding the inner circle, Lohani said.

Jawans of the Odisha State Armed Police (OSAP) will guard the middle tier and the local police will be in charge of the outer cordon, he added.

By-elections in the two constituencies were held on November 3, following the demise of BJP MLA Madan Mohan Dutta in Balasore and BJD legislator Bishnu Charan Das in Tirtol.

In view of the pandemic, special arrangements have been made for counting of votes at both the centres, the officer said.

In each of the two venues, counting will be held simultaneously at seven tables in two halls, he said.

Three counting halls have been set up in each of the centres, he said.

'There would be seven tables each in two halls, while the postal ballots will be counted in the third hall,' he said.

Apart from special barricades, transparent polythene sheets will be placed to effectively maintain social distance.

Use of face masks will be mandatory for all counting personnel and agents, Lohani said.

In every table, there will be three counting personnel -- a counting assistant, a supervisor and a micro-observer. A total of 110 counting personnel and 57 micro-observers have been engaged, he said.

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips of five randomly picked booths will also be counted as per the Election Commission guidelines.

The results will be updated on the official website -- results.eci.gov.in, and announced on completion of each round of counting at the respective centres.

Counting of votes is likely to be completed by the evening though the number of booths has increased this time, Lohani said.

The voter turnout in Balasore and Tirtol assembly segments was 70.69 and 69.66 per cent, respectively.

The electoral fortunes of 15 candidates -- six in Balasore and nine in Tirtol -- will be decided on Tuesday.

The BJP has fielded Manas Kumar Dutta, the son of late MLA Madan Mohan Dutta, in the Balasore seat, while Swarup Das is the BJD candidate and the Congress nominated Mamata Kundu.

The BJD has fielded Bijay Shankar Das, the son of Bishnu Charan Das, in the Tirtol seat, while the Congress candidate in Himansu Bhushan Mallick, and Rajkishore Behera is the BJP nominee.

State BJP general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan claimed his party will win both the seats as the voters are 'fed up with the ruling BJD'.

Senior BJD leader DP Mishra said people in both the constituencies have voted for the state's ruling party as they are keen to see speedy development in their areas. PTI SKN SOM SOM