ECI Team Reviews Poll Preparedness With Odisha CEO & District Collectors

Bhubaneswar: Amid speculation that the Centre may introduce ‘One Nation, One Election’ bill during Parliament’s special session from September 18 to 22, Election Commission of India’s t(ECI) two senior deputy election commissioners Dharmendra Sharma and Nitesh Kumar Vyas on Wednesday held discussions with Odisha’s chief electoral officer Nikunja B Dhal and all district collectors at Kharavela Bhawan here.

They are believed to be focusing on the special summary revision of electoral rolls and poll preparedness for the 2024 twin polls in the state. The ECI team would also examine sensitive booths and law and order situation in different districts of the state and preparedness done in the last few byelections, including Jharsuguda and Padampur, sources said.

The ECI team’s visit has also triggered speculation of early Assembly elections in Odisha. Stating that preparing for elections is a long and arduous process, Dhal on August 29, however, asserted that the ECI team’s visit has nothing to do with early polls. “EVMs and VVPATs will be examined in October and the process will be completed by November 15. But this process or the ECI team’s visit has nothing to do with early polls. Both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections will be held as per schedule,” he had said.

Notably, political parties, particularly Opposition BJP and Congress, speculated that early polls might be held in Odisha along with those scheduled in five other states later this year. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was among the first politicians to have speculated in recent times that the ruling BJD might seek early polls in the state.

Though the BJD has been tightlipped over these speculations, preparations of the ruling party and at the government level has given credence to possibility of early elections in Odisha. The state cabinet met regularly during the last two months to approve several schemes, including Mo Ghara Yojana, the Mission Shakti Scooty Yojana, Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha and NUA (Nutana Unnata Abhilasha) Odisha scheme to cater to all sections of the society. It also approved a proposal to provide infrastructural support to create banking facilities in 4,373 unbanked gram panchayats of the state.

Senior BJD MLA Amar Prasad Satpathy also told the media that early Assembly elections will favour the BJD as the party has the support of the people because of pro-people schemes launched by the state government. The state unit of the Congress too has been conducting meetings with the hope to make the most of the early elections,

Early polls were held in Odisha in 2004.

On Tuesday, the ECI team held a review meeting with West Bengal’s chief electoral officer Aariz Aftab and his deputy. The delegation had earlier visited Andhra Pradesh, where Assembly polls are due in April 2024 along with Odisha, on August 3 and directed collectors to ensure inclusive and error-free electoral rolls.

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