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The Odisha government has sought objections, if any from the public, to hold direct elections for the post of Mayor of Municipal Corporations and Chairperson of Municipalities and Notified Area Councils (NAC) in the state.

The Housing and Urban Development Department Friday issued a draft notification to amend the Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of Wards, Reservation of Seats and Conduct of Election) Rules 1994 for the election of Mayor and Chairperson by people through direct voting.

The people in general can lodge their grievances or objections if any in this regard within a month, the notification said. As per existing norms, corporators elect mayor in a municipal corporation while councillors of a municipality elect the chairperson.

Any objection or suggestion which may be received by the Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, from any person in respect of the said draft before the expiry of the period so specified will be considered by the state government.

According to the draft, these rules may be called the Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of Wards, Reservation of Seats and Conduct of Election) Amendment Rules, 2021. They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Odisha Gazette.

According to the draft, a candidate can contest for both councillor and chairperson's posts but retain only one if elected in both. Every nomination paper has to be signed by two electors of the urban local body. There would be separate ballot boxes, one for the election of the chairperson/mayors and the other for the councillor during polling.

The urban polls in Odisha have been delayed by over two years with the government yet to amend the existing laws to determine the reservation and delimitation of seats.

In 2018, the Orissa High Court on a PIL had asked the government not to exceed 50 per cent reservation of seats for the SC, ST and OBC in the non-scheduled areas. It was upheld by the Supreme Court when the government challenged it later that year.

The reservation of seats for SC, ST and OBC in the ULB polls will be possible only after necessary amendments to the existing Orissa Municipal Act-1950 and Orissa Municipal Corporation Act-2003, an official said.

The Odisha Assembly had passed two bills in September 2018 for the elections of chairpersons and mayors through direct voting. The Odisha Municipal (amendment) Bill and the Odisha Municipal Corporation (amendment) Bill were passed in the absence of the Opposition.

The rules of the bills, however, have not been formulated so far.

The tenure of 65 ULBs, including Berhampur Municipal Corporation, has expired since September 29, 2018, while the tenure of 48 civic bodies including Bhubaneswar, Rourkela and Sambalpur municipal corporations expired in February 2019.

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