Mrunal Manmay Dash

As the municipalities and notified area councils (NACs) in Odisha are gearing up to elect their vice-chairpersons on April 7, allegations of ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD’s) involvement in horse-trading has heated up the political climate in the State.

The Congress party and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have alleged that the BJD leaders are trying to buy independent councillors, in the municipalities where they do not possess a majority of councillors. The ruling party does not have majority in about 15 municipalities.

In Jagatsinghpur Municipality where Congress party has occupied the chairman position, the National party alleged that the BJD, which has nine councillors, is luring three independent councillors to side with them so that they could make their candidate win the Vice Chairperson position in the Municipality.

Jagatsinghpur Municipality has nine BJD councillors, seven Congress councillors, two from BJP while three councillors are independent. The BJD needs two more to achieve the magic number.

The 19-member Paradip Municipality has an interesting equation as well. While the BJD has its candidate on the Chairman’s chair, it does not have the majority of councillors to win the Vice-Chairperson election as well. With only seven councillors, the ruling party needs another three members to win the election. The Paradip municipality has three BJP councillors, one from Congress and eight independent councillors.

Basant Biswal, BJD leader and Chairperson of Paradip Municipality said, “Though we do not possess the required numbers in Paradip, we will still cooperate in the election. We are discussing this with other councillors and trying to win their confidence in the election.”

Going west from the east-coast Odisha, the 23-member Angul Municipal Council possesses a similar problem for the BJD. While the Chairman is from the ruling party, it has only 10 councillors, two short of the magic number. The Council has 13 members from BJP, which should win the vice-chairperson election quite easily. But the saffron party alleged that the BJD is making efforts for a cross-voting to help the conch party win in Angul.

Speaking on the upcoming election, Akshay Kumar Samanta, Chairperson of Angul Municipality said, “I am just waiting for the election day. I think it is important to rise above the party politics and conduct the election in a free and fair way to elect the Vice-Chairperson to the Council.”

The Congress and BJD are set for a potential face-off at 23-ward Basudevpur Municipality in Bhadrak as well. While the BJD has won the Chairman post, with 10 councillors, it is still two short of the required numbers to win the vice-chairperson election. The Congress has nine and BJP has four councillors in the Municipality.

BJP MLA, Jaynarayan Mishra alleged, “BJD is capable to do anything. They have all the government machinery working for them. Besides, they have all the money power and muscle power. Horse trading is in their blood and they believe in this theory.”

Explaining Congress’ stand on the allegations of BJD’s unfair election practice, MLA Suresh Routray said, “The BJD has already purchased required number of councillors in the Councils where they have fallen short of a majority. They do not want any opposition existence in the State.”

However, BJD tried to come clean by refuting all these allegations as baseless. Senior BJD leader, Debi Prasad Mishra said, “This is a ridiculous allegation. BJD does not do any mechanisation on its own. If other councillors want to join the developmental process in their area by including themselves in the BJD, then we do not have any say in this.”