Civic Body Polls top priority for new Odisha SEC AP Padhi

Bhubaneswar: At a time when Odisha government seems to be stuck in the maze of ward delimitation and reservation of seats, holding early civic body polls will be challenging for former chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, who assumed charge as the new State Election Commissioner (SEC) today.

Apart from the urban local body polls, all eyes will be on Padhi as panchayat polls particularly in Maoist-infested Malkangiri district have not be held for the last three years.

“I have now a responsibility to hold the urban local body and panchayat polls and will discharge it with utmost priority,” said Padhi.

Though Panchayat polls were held in all blocks in 2017, the elections were not conducted in Malkangiri.  The local sarpanch’s office at Chitrakonda area remains locked and as a result, people from the Swabhiman region are facing problems in meeting the panchayat officials for redressal of their grievances.

Elections are yet to be completed in 15 panchayats of Chitrakonda block including Panasput, Jodaamba and Badapadar. Similarly, out of the 15 zilla parishad zones, election in two zones is still pending.

Though the recently concluded general elections were conducted smoothly in Maoist-infested areas, the government seems to have forgotten about the panchayat polls. Even though Gurupriya bridge now connects Chitrakonda with the Swabhiman region via Janbai, holding rural polls in a free and fair manner will be a tough ask for the SEC.

“We had come to meet the officials but nobody is present. As the election is yet to be completed, we are facing problems in getting our work done,” said a local resident.

Apart from 101 municipalities, the tenure of five municipal corporations has also ended while Odisha government is yet to complete the necessary formalities including ward delimitation and capping the reservation of seats at 50 %.

The outgoing election commissioner also admitted that the civic body polls are entangled in legal hurdles.

“Due to legal hurdles, the polls have been delayed. The polls will be held once all such hurdles are cleared,” said former SEC, Naba Kumar Nayak.