An estimated 72 per cent of the over 2.32 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the by-election to Odisha’s Bijepur assembly seat where polling was held peacefully amid tight security on Monday, election office sources said.

The final polling percentage is likely to go up as a large number of voters are still waiting in queues to exercise their franchise before the stipulated end at 5 pm at the polling centres, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) SK Lohani said.

The by-election to the seat was necessitated as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had won two seats in the assembly polls held in April this year, resigned from Bijepur and retained his home turf Hinjili in Ganjam district.

The polling was brisk, smooth and peaceful in all the 285 booths with no untoward incident reported from any part of the sensitive constituency in Bargarh district of west Odisha, he said.

Though Bijepur saw the third election in less than two years there was enthusiasm among the voters who turned out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

By-election was held for the seat in 2018 following the death of Congress MLA Subal Sahu, the assembly election in April 2019 and now the bypoll.

Eleven model booths were set up where special arrangements have been made for differently-abled voters.

As many as 129 polling stations in the constituency were identified as critical and steps were taken to ensure hassle-free voting in six polling stations which were identified as being vulnerable to left-wing extremism, he said.

Though there are five candidates in the fray, the contest is mainly between ruling BJD candidate Rita Sahu and BJP’s Sanat Gartia in Bijepur, which was earlier a Congress bastion.

The Congress has fielded its Bargarh district unit vice-president Dillip Kumar Panda, seen as a greenhorn, in the bypoll.

Election office sources said webcasting was arranged in 28 polling stations, while CCTVs were fitted in 14 polling stations.

As many as 77 micro-observers were engaged to monitor the polling process and videography was done in 16 polling stations, he said.

The counting of votes is scheduled to be held on October 24.