Ramakanta Biswas

At a time when Odisha is gearing up for elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), the bizarre news of the auction of a Sarpanch post in the Gram Sabha of a village in a remote part of the State has come to light on Monday. 

The peculiar incident of selling of Sarpanch post for Rs 44,000 which has been reported from Bileisarda village under Puintala block of Bolangir district is seen as a mockery of democracy or election process. 

Though the alleged auction took place in the Gram Sabha (village meeting) held at Bileisarda village on Friday, it came to light today when the filing of nomination papers for the posts of Sarpanchs, Samiti members and Zilla Parishad members began in the State.

As per sources, the Gram Sabha was organised by residents of three villages- Bandanakata, Kasurpali and Bileisarda- at the village Jagannath temple on Friday where the alleged bidding for the Sarpanch post took place. Sushant Kumar Chhatria reportedly won the bid by pledging to donate Rs 44,000 for the development of the Jagannath temple. 

Speaking about the incident, Chhatria said, "The residents of the Panchayat have decided to vote for one person who would contribute to the temple. They have promised to support me in the elections to become a Sarpanch." 

"I have also promised that if I become Sarpanch unopposed, I will contribute the money meant for election expenses to the temple. I have pledged a total of Rs 44,000," he said.  

Dinabandhu Gartia, a villager who attended the meeting said, "As the Panchayat elections 2022 is going to be held amid the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, we thought if we help win a candidate uncontested, we can prevent gathering and spread of the infections."

"When we selected Sushant Chhatria for the post of sarpanch, he promised to donate Rs 44,000 for the temple as per his ability," he added.  

Speaking about the incident, the priest of the Jagannath temple said, "There were four candidates who wished to contest for Sarpanch post. Finally, we chose Sushant Kumar Chhatria and the decision was unanimously supported."

Meanwhile, taking cognizance of the incident from media reports, the State Election Commission of Odisha has sought a factual report from the Collector of Bolangir positively by 5 pm tomorrow (January 18, 2022).

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