Pradeep Pattanayak

Three days have passed since the election dates were announced and the model code of conduct (MCC) came into force, but the alacrity to be shown by the district administrations in Odisha in removing political banners and posters seems to be lacking. 

To find out how the MCC is being enforced, our teams visited Kendrapara, Balasore, Rourkela and Bhubaneswar. 

In Kendrapara, government banners and posters are seen across the town. Three months have passed since the New Year’s Day, but the government banners and posters of greetings are still found. The town's skyline is also dotted with drinking water, Mukta Yojana and LAccMI Bus scheme posters and banners with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s photo. 

At places, our team found the administration removing the posters. Some advertisement boards are also seen covered with black clothes. But the enforcement was moving at a snail’s pace. City dwellers also alleged that if the work goes on at this pace, the election would be over by the time all the posters get removed. 

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Similar scenes were witnessed in Balasore. Here, the administration took three days to remove the Chief Minister’s advertisement from the premises of the district Collector’s new office. 

“The Collector does not want Naveen Babu’s posters to be removed. It means the Collector is behaving like a puppet in the BJD’s hands. The conch party fears that people may forget it if the posters are removed,” said Pratap Mohanty, a Kendrapara resident. 

A Balasore resident, Nisit Barik had similar allegations. “The rule should be implemented like a rule. We feel there is some kind of pressure.”

When asked, Balasore Collector Asish Thakre said, “All the departments have been directed to remove hoardings and the process is underway.”

The situation in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela cities was no different either. 

While the process was a bit fast in Rourkela, it was found to be dead slow in Bhubaneswar. The hoarding of the government’s Mukta Yojana was still there in front of the ADM office. Similarly, hoardings of ‘Jaga Mission’ and ‘Mukta Yojana’ were yet to be removed. 

On the other hand, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) enforcement squad was seen removing hoardings of the Congress party put up near the Congress Bhawan. The leaders alleged that the BMC was discriminating against the Congress party. 

“When I saw them removing our hoardings and taking them away in a van, I objected and asked them to keep them inside the Bhawan. Then I asked them if they could remove Naveen Babu’s hoardings,” said the secretary of the Pradesh Mahila Congress, Shreeyasmita Panda. 

“We are not treating parties differently. All are equal to us. We are also removing the posters and banners of Naveen Sir,” said the Enforcement Officer of BMC, Hemanta Sahu. 

Rourkela Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Ashutosh Kulkarni said, “We are removing banners and posters of political parties and government schemes from everywhere.”