Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently taken action against some erring officials of the Odisha government on the basis of the allegations by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) ahead of the upcoming General Elections in the State.

ECI in action mode

Many government officials including the Secretary of Mission Shakti Department, other IAS and IPS officials, police personnel and teachers have either been suspended or transferred following allegations of MCC violations. ECI has been in action mode ahead of the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections like never before. Following stern actions by the ECI on the erring officials, some other officials remote-controlled by the State government are reportedly in a fix.

A couple of days back, the ECI ordered the transfer of Sujata R. Karthikeyan, an IAS officer and wife of IAS-turned-BJD leader VK Pandian, from the post of Secretary to the Mission Shakti Department in Odisha. As per ECI sources, the action was taken based on complaints of alleged misuse of public office. As many as two police personnel were also transferred for MCC violation on Friday for joining an Iftar party at a stage in Cuttack under BJD leader Ranendra Pratap Swain's banner. The officials have been identified as Choudwar Police Station IIC Biswaranjan Sahu and SI Saraswati. Apart from the transfer order, both have been barred from election duties.

Earlier on April 22, two teachers in Nabarangpur identified as Goutam Charan Sahu and Manoj Bhatra were suspended over MCC violation. Similarly, Nayagarh Cooperative bank manager, Jugala Kishore Pradhan and Malasahi College lecturer Prashant Kumar Behera were suspended on April 17 for reportedly administering oaths to some people to vote for the BJD. Former BJD Minister and Atabira MLA Snehangini Chhuria's husband Durga Prasad Chhuria was transferred to another district on April 23 on the same charge.

Question mark over role of govt officials

Now, questions are being raised why so many government officials are involved in the electioneering for the ruling party? Are they participating in the electioneering as per their own wish or they are being forced? Opposition BJP and Congress have slammed the ruling party over the development.

"A bureaucratic system has been formed with few officials who are working for BJD. Many CRPs and MBKs have lost their jobs as BJD used them. Who is responsible for this? Top IAS officials are responsible for it as they are using the officials under them by issuing theatres," said Anil Biswal BJP spokesperson.

"Certain officials work as the agents of the BJD. It should not happen. Now, it's the duty of the ECI to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner without any bias for any particular party," said Congress leader Biswa Ranjan Mohanty.

However, BJD refuted the charges by the Opposition parties.

"People of Odisha have made up their minds to vote for the BJD and our party will form the government again," said BJD leader Jhina Hikaka.

Big jolt to BJD

In the run-up to the 2024 elections, BJD's alleged strategy to grab and garner votes of women members of SHGs received a big jolt after ECI directed the transfer of Sujata Karthikeyan. She was relieved from the post over allegations that she was involved in influencing women’s self-help groups to vote for the BJD. 

A few days back, ECI had barred the proposed Dubai trip of Mission Shakti women. Some senior IAS and IPS officers including Ashish Singh were also transferred over the allegation of MCC violation. As many as eight Collectors have also been transferred on the same charges.

While as many as 548 complaints pertaining to MCC violations have been received in the State so far, the Chief Electoral Officer, Odisha has resolved as many as 449 cases among those.

"A perception is now being built that the ECI is taking the correct steps. Many more steps are still to be taken. Then only transparency could be ensured in the election process," said former Chief Secretary Sahadev Sahoo.

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