**Bhubaneswar: ** With piling complaints of political parties openly campaigning for the customarily apolitical candidates in the fray, former State Election Commissioner Sanjeev Hota termed it as gross violation of the model code of conduct.
As per the standing norms of the three-tier Panchayat polls, a Ward Member candidate, Sarpanch candidate and a Samiti Member candidate are not of any political parties and their candidatures must not be endorsed by any political leaders nor could be campaigned in favour.
Former State Election Commissioner Sanjeev Hota remarked, “If any political party leader canvasses either for a Ward Member candidate or Sarpanch candidate or a Samiti Member candidate terming them as their respective party candidates, it’s violation of code of conduct.”
Elucidating on it he said, “There are three Acts and other rules and regulations for the three-tier Panchayat polls. There is an objective behind every Act that need to be comprehended. Studying the Act troika, one can know well that the Ward Member, Sarpanch and Samiti Member candidates are apolitical, sans any affiliation to any of the registered political parties. Only the Zilla Parishad member is a political party candidate. All should abide by the law religiously. The State Election Commission thus issues directive that those three categories cannot be political party candidates.”
“If it is further found that all political parties are blatantly violating it, free and fair election cannot be conducted. Under such circumstances, the State Election Commission should first warn against the violation and at the worst case election there should be kept in abeyance,” Hota quipped.
BJD MLA Sashi Bhusan Behera said, “Where ever there is a grey area in the model code of conduct, law can be made to patch it up. In the three-tier Panchayat elections, the Ward Member, Sarpanch and Samiti Member candidates do not fight carrying party symbols. But, they have allegiance to their respective parties and cast their votes accordingly in favour of the Zilla Parishad candidates. If as an MLA I appeal the voters to elect the right candidate, Sarpanch or Samiti Member as he/she is well-known to me, where is the mistake? If I say the candidate is in the fray supported by my party, then it’s violation of the model code of conduct. Complaint can be lodged with the State Election Commission.”
State Election Commission secretary Rabindranth Sahu said, “Whenever any complaints pertaining to code of conduct violation are received by us, we’re promptly taking action. Yesterday such a complaint came from Nabarangur district over distribution of utensils. Immediately we wrote to the Collector to initiate strict action against the person if found guilty. Hence, we are taking action immediately when complaint is received by us.”
Notably, an Odia electronic media on Wednesday ran a video footage in which former Health Minister and Mahakalpada MLA Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak was seen approaching the voters to cast their votes in favour of a Sarpanch candidate who is ‘supported’ by BJD.
In many other cases, posters of such apolitical candidates ostensibly supported by BJD, Congress and BJP are allegedly found bearing either names or photos of their respective parties.