State Election Commission sets ball rolling for urban polls in Odisha

SEC asks Urban Development department to furnish details regarding ward delimitation and seat reservation post the SC judgement terming the 66% reservation violative of SC orders on reservations

Bhubaneswar: The State Election Commission (SEC) has set the ball rolling on holding the urban elections soon in the State. It has recently asked the State Urban Development department to furnish all details regarding delimitation of wards and reservation of seats under the municipal limits.

It needs reminding that Odisha HC had struck down Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of wards, Reservation of seats and Conduct of Elections) Amendment Rules 2016 last year. The HC struck down the notification for breaching of the 50 per cent reservation benchmark. The reserved seats as per the 2016 Municipal rules had touched 66 per cent in the State.

The State government challenged the HC judgment in the Apex Court, The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the HC judgment. Following which, the State Government has to re-introduce the Odisha Municipal Rules -2016 for the necessary amendments in the State Assembly.

The SEC has sent a reminder to the State Urban Development Department in this regard, as the Budget session of the 16th Assembly is commencing from June 25. However, senior officials in the department are tightlipped over the SEC’s missive to the department. It is widely believed that amendment to Odisha Municipal Rules-2016 will be introduced in the Budget session.

Sources in the UD department disclosed that as the general elections were underway, so the State administration was unable to carry out the SC order on Odisha Municipal Rules-2016.

Meanwhile, H&UD Minister Pratap Jena refuses to disclose government’s road map regarding the Odisha municipal elections.

Elections to as many as 66 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) have been pending since last year for the legal tangle over Odisha Municipal Rules  – 2016. As the terms of elected ULBs were over, the department had appointed administrators for the civic bodies. Similarly, the department had anointed another 25 administrators for as many civic bodies, including the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The buzz in the political circles was the ruling BJD then dilly-dallied over holding urban polls in the State, post the rural poll shocker the party got in 2017.  After quashing up the State Government notification by HC, the murmur was in order to buy time, State Government decided to challenge HC order in SC. And as the general elections have gone in favour of ruling BJD, the State Government will not prolong the urban polls any farther, feel observers.

However, opposition parties have flayed at the incumbent government for subverting the ULB poll process. While senior BJP leader Pradip Purohit reasoned that ruling BJD postponed the urban polls fearing loss post the rural poll shocker. Congress veteran Narasingha Mishra also lambasted the actions of the State government for delaying the ULB polls.

Observers are of the view that if the Odisha Municipal Rules stand amended in the Budget session, and the same if was notified by June end, there is every likelihood that the SEC may blow the ULB poll bugle in July.