Vikash Sharma

Candidates along with their supporters can hit the campaign trail as usual as there will be no restrictions ahead of the crucial Urban Local Body (ULB) elections in Odisha, announced the State Election Commission (SEC) on Monday.

State Election Commissioner Aditya Prasad Padhi said that since there has been a significant drop in the daily Covid-19 cases, restrictions will be lifted for campaigning during the crucial elections to 106 urban local bodies (ULBs) and three municipal corporations, scheduled to be held on March 24.

According to Padhi, the daily caseload in Odisha has come down significantly as the State is now witnessing daily cases below the 200-mark. Keeping in view the present situation, there will be no restrictions during campaigning by the candidates. However, the State Election Commission stated that restrictions might be clamped if the daily Covid-19 cases see a surge in the coming days.

Elaborate measures have also been taken by the State Election Commission for the smooth conduct of the Urban Local Body elections. On Monday, unusual rush was witnessed at centres set up for filing of the nomination by candidates contesting the crucial polls on the last day, today.

As per the schedule, the scrutiny of nomination papers will be carried out on March 9 and the candidates can withdraw their nomination by March 14. Polling will be held for municipalities, NACs and three municipal corporations from 8 am to 5 pm on March 24.

The counting of votes will be held on March 26, and election for the posts of Vice Chairperson and Deputy Mayor will be held on April 7 and April 8, respectively.

For the first time, there will be direct election to the posts of Mayor in municipal corporations and chairperson of municipalities and NACs. As per the SEC, two EVMs will be used in each booth– one for Chairperson/Mayor and another for Councillor/Corporator.

The NOTA (none of the above) option will be available for the first time in urban elections in the State as announced by the Commission. “In each polling team, there will be one presiding officer and four polling officers. We have also made provisions for the polling personnel so that they can also exercise their franchise, if they are voters of the concerned urban areas,” Padhi added.

The polling will be held in 1731 Wards in municipalities and NACs and 161 Wards of three municipal corporations-Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC), Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BeMC). The voting will be held in 4475 booths and a total of 42 lakh voters are scheduled to exercising their franchise.