Bhubaneswar: With election for Zilla Parishad chairmen in State scheduled to be held on March 12, the BJP on Friday moved the Orissa High Court after the State government stirred the hornet’s nest by making a change in the Odisha Zilla Parishad Act – 1994.
According to sources, Section 51 of the Act has been amended to allow agents of every party to be present during the election the chairman. The agents will be appointed by the respective parties and the respective ZP members will have to inform their agents about the candidates they have voted to become the chairman.
As per the amended rules, an authorised agent of each political party will be allowed to verify the ballot papers of the party members before they cast their votes.
“Every political party, whose member as an elector casts a vote for the purpose of election to the office of the President, or as the case may be, the Vice President, may appoint one authorised agent,” said a notification issued by the Panchayati Raj Department.
It said the President and the General Secretary of the state party/state unit of national political party will inform the Election Officer about the agent prior to the election day.
The new rules would come into force on the date of its publication in the Odisha Gazette.
The new clauses mentioned that the Election Officer will allow the authorised agents to verify as to whom elected members of their party have cast their votes.
However, such a change was seen by BJP as a violation of law prompting it to move the High Court challenging the amendment.
According to Union minister and senior BJP leader Jual Oram, Sundergarh ZP member Sukhlal Munda has filed a case in the HC. Sources informed that the HC will hear the plea on March 15.
“Such an amendment is unconstitutional and undemocratic which is the reason why we have challenged it in the HC. A case has been filed by ZP member Sukhlal Munda challenging the decision to change the rules in the middle of elections,” said Oram.
“During the process of election, the government cannot make any change in the law. The Assembly should have been taken into confidence while making such amendment. This is unconstitutional, arbitrary, illegal, and on the part of the government, it is mala fide exercise of power,” said senior BJP leader, Biswabhushan Harichandan.
Minister Damodar Rout responded to such allegations saying, “Just like in Rajya Sabha, an agent should be present during voting to ensure that there is no cross-voting and everyone is following the decision of the party.
Moreover, the ruling-BJD also issued a whip to all its elected ZP members. Party sources said, the whip has been issued through the district presidents by party chief Naveen Patnaik. The whip warns its concerned recipients that any violation of guidelines stated therein will be construed as anti-party and stringent action will be initiated, informed sources.
In wake of such a whip being issued, Oram responded saying “Actually BJD is very scared now. There is internal conflict among its leaders in at least, 5 to 6 district. The party has panicked and taken such a decision overnight,” said Oram.
“It looks like the BJP was expecting a lot from horse trading and now seems to have suffered loss on account of such anti-defection law,” said BJD spokesperson Amar Satpathy in response to Oram.