August 25, 2021 6:44:40 pm
The Orissa High Court Wednesday asked the State Election Commission (SEC) and the Chief Secretary to respond, within four weeks, to three writ petitions seeking immediate conduct of civic body polls. The petitions were filed in court earlier this month by former bureaucrat Prasanna Mishra from Bhubaneswar, ex-minister and senior BJP leader Samir Dey from Cuttack, and BJP MLA Jayant Sarangi from Puri.
The State Election Commissioner’s office said it was waiting for the state government to complete the delimitation and reservation exercise based on which electoral rolls will be prepared. “The SEC can prepare the electoral rolls and initiate a poll process based on the government’s delimitation and reservation works,” State Election Commissioner AP Padhi said. In 2018, the Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of Wards, Reservation of seats and Conduct of Elections) Amendment Rules, 2016, was set aside by the High Court as reservation of seats for for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the non-scheduled areas had reached 66 percent as against the 50 percent limit. The state government had also moved the Supreme Court against the high court decision, but the apex court had upheld the court’s order in 2019.
Responding to the same, Minister for Housing and Urban Development Pratap Jena said the civic body polls would be held soon but did not divulge details. Earlier, he had announced that the state government would abide by the high court’s order and not exceed 50 per cent reservation of seats.
Elections to urban local bodies in the state are pending since 2018 and the civic bodies have been under bureaucratic administration since then. Of the 116 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the State, only two have elected representatives at the moment. The two notified area councils (NACs) are Hindol and Attabira, where elections were held in 2018 and the tenure ends in 2023.
Earlier in March the state government had initiated a delimitation process, but the second wave of the pandemic soared. The BJP has time and again accused the state government of purposely delaying the civic body polls and had also sought the intervention of Governor Ganeshi Lal to resolve the issue. “During the pandemic we did not raise the issue since the state machinery was worked up with the COVID-19 situation. But now the urban areas are in a dismal situation with no representatives. After the Supreme Court upheld HC’s decision over reservation, this delay is unwarranted. The delay only reflects that the SEC is not acting independently,” BJP state spokesperson Dilip Mohanty said.
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