Phulbani (Odisha): An estimated 25 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in the first four hours of polling for by-election to Odisha's communally sensitive Kandhamal Lok Sabha constituency today. Polling, which commenced at 7 AM on a dull note in several places, picked up gradually in the Maoist-hit constituency where an estimated 11.4 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise.

"Polling is in progress smoothly and no untoward incident has been reported from any place," district election officer (DEO), Kandhamal, S Kar said. "Around 25 per cent of the voters have exercised their franchise in the first four hours of polling," he said.

By-election in the constituency, spread over Kandhamal, Nayagarh, Ganjam and Boudh districts, was necessitated following death of BJD MP Hemendra Chandra Singh on September 5. "All the required arrangements have been made for conducting a free and fair polling," Kandhamal District Magistrate N Thirumala Nayak, who is also the returning officer, said. The fate of seven candidates including Pratyusha Rajeswari Singh (BJD), Abhimanyu Behera (Cong) and Rudra Madhav Ray (BJP) would be decided in the by-election.

Pratyusha's late husband had won the polls from Kandhamal in May with a margin of 1.81 lakh votes. Counting of votes would be held on October 19. Voting is being held in 1,497 polling stations spread over seven assembly segments - Phulbani, G Udaygiri, Baliguda, Boudh, Kantamal, Bhanjanagar and Daspalla.