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Pradeep Pattanayak

With the Panchayat election in Odisha expected in February next year, the political environment in rural areas is getting charged up. 
In the rural pockets of the State, while hopefuls have already started their activities to garner support, people are weighing options to elect appropriate candidates who will take the developmental works in their respective areas forward. 

While a preparatory meeting on Panchayat elections was convened on Monday in Madhuban Panchayat under Gudari block of Rayagada district, in Madanpur Panchayat in Jatni Assembly constituency  on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, banners of aspiring candidates appeared solo with while some others sharing space with the local MLA. 

No wonder, the aspirants have already started queuing up outside the MLAs’ residence. 

“We will elect the candidates who can do something for the development of our village,” said Tapan Pattanayak, a resident of Madhuban Panchayat. Over banners influencing people’s mind, a resident of Madanpur Panchayat, Rajesh Mohapatra said the colour of the banners help people know the probable candidates and their political affiliations.

Meanwhile, the State Election Commission has also started preparations for the important polls. “Final publication of the electoral rolls across the State has been completed. Only printed copies of the same are awaited. Since the counting will be held at the Block headquarters this year, more ballot boxes are required. We have our own ballot boxes, and those apart, we have brought some from West Bengal and Telengana,” informed secretary of State Election Commission, Rabindranath Sahu. 

This year, a total of 91,913 ballot boxes are required. For this, 10,000 boxes from Telengana, 7,000 from West Bengal and 16,000 boxes from Odisha Small Scale Industries are being arranged. 

Voting will take place in 91,913 wards and 7,694 Panchayats in the State this year. Besides, 853 Zilla Parishad members will also be elected. Over 2,62,000 voters will exercise their franchise this time. Since it is expected that the elections will be held in February, the Election Commissioner may announce the date in the last week of this month. 

Notably, out of 314 Blocks, there are 15 such Blocks which are also Zilla Parishad zones. Similarly, there are 116 Blocks, each comprising two zones, 115 Blocks, each having three zones, 50 Blocks, each comprising four zones, seven Blocks each having five zones and one Block having six Zilla Parishad zones.   

This year the central counting will be done in Blocks. In the first phase, counting will take place in 315 zones out of 853 zones. In the second and third phases, counting will be held in 307 and 231 zones, respectively. 

This year, the State Election Commission has increased the Panchayat candidates’ expenditure limits. A Sarpanch and Samiti member can spend a maximum of Rs 2 lakh and a Zilla Parishad candidate’s limit has been fixed at maximum Rs 5 lakh.

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