A woman poll officer was killed by Naxals who also triggered a landmine blast in Kandhamal district of Odisha just a day before Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the region. The ultras also set ablaze a poll vehicle.
The officer, Sanjukta Digal, was on her way to a polling booth when she was shot dead by the Naxals in Balandapada village under Gochhapada police station limits.
Digal was with four others in a vehicle which was passing through the dense forest area in Balandapada when the Naxals triggered a landmine blast. Some of the passengers, including Digal, got down from the vehicle suspecting more landmines.
It was then that the Left-wing extremists fired indiscriminately at the group, killing Digal. The other officials escaped unhurt.
Digal was a Sector Officer. The officials were on their way to the Phulbani assembly segment under the Kandhamal Lok Sabha constituency.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed grief at the killing of the poll official.
“Deeply anguished by the sad demise of polling supervisor Sanjukta Digal in Maoist attack in Kandhamal district of #Odisha on her way to polling booth. Heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and prayer for the departed soul,” Patnaik tweeted.
Deeply anguished by the sad demise of polling supervisor Sanjukta Digal in Maoist attack in Kandhamal district of #Odisha on her way to polling booth. Heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family and prayer for the departed soul.
— Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) April 17, 2019
In another incident in the same district, Naxals torched a vehicle carrying poll officials to a polling booth in a village in remote Phiringia police station area.
Kandhamal district collector cum returning officer D Brunda said the initial report in this regard said armed Maoists in uniform asked the officials to get down from the vehicle before they set fire to it.
Police said all officials are safe but it was not clear what happened to poll materials like the EVMs.
Police suspect that the KKBN (Kalahandi-Kandhamal-Boudh-Nayagarh) division of the CPI(Maoist) was involved in both the incidents.
Maoists have put up posters and banners in the district asking the people to boycott the polls.
Keeping in view the Maoist presence in Kandhanal district, the Election Commission has limited the polling time from 7 am to 4 pm in seven assembly segments in it.
Polling is being held for Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies simultaneously in the state.
While the first phase voting was held on April 11, there are three more phases on April 18, 23 and 29.
(With PTI inputs.)