Why Odisha Government Is Delaying Civic Body Polls?

Bhubaneswar: Despite a thumping victory in the recently concluded 2019 general elections, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) seems to be in no hurry to conduct the civic body polls in the State. Though the Supreme Court had earlier rapped the State government on issue, the reservation of seats and ward delimitation process is yet to be completed.

There are no elected representatives in 101 civic bodies out of the total 114 while the State government has shrugged off its responsibility by just appointing administrators. The State Election Commission also seems helpless owing to non-cooperation of the State government.

This has now provided an opportunity to the opposition parties to take shots at the ruling party.

“Somehow they (BJD) managed to win the 2019 elections, but now its party leaders and the CM are afraid to face the people. We believe that the government will issue notification for urban body polls after they muster some courage,” said senior BJP leader, Prithviraj Harichandan.

Congress MLA Sura Routray said, “If the state government had respect for democracy, the elections would have been held on its due date. The State government is intentionally delaying the civic polls in the name of reservation of seats.”

Urban Development Minister, Pratap Jena stated that Municipal Elections will be held at the right time.

“The state government is taking necessary steps to conduct the urban body polls and a bill to amend the municipal act will be brought in the Assembly,” said Jena.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Orissa High Court had struck down Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of wards, Reservation of seats and Conduct of Elections) Amendment Rules 2016 last year over breach of 50 per cent reservation benchmark. The reserved seats as per the 2016 Odisha Municipal Rules had touched 66 per cent in the State.

Though the State government had moved the Supreme Court, the apex court upheld the HC judgment.

Now in a bid to keep the reservation restricted to 50 per cent, the State government needs to bring some amendments to Odisha Municipal Act and get it passed in the Odisha Assembly. Though it was believed that a bill will be introduced in the budget session of the Assembly to amend the Odisha Municipal Act, it was not done. Now all eyes will be on the winter session of Odisha Assembly.

“Instead of sitting idle, the Election Commission should notify the court. The commission is not able to perform its duties as reservation of seats and ward delimitation process is yet to be completed,” said Sanjiv Hota, former State Election Commissioner.