The Chief Election Commissioner & Election Commissioners,
The Election Commission of India
New Delhi- 110001
Sub.: Representation Regarding Gross violation of Model Code of Conduct by the Govt. of Odisha and Corroborating Conduct of the CEO, Odisha; and Regarding Election duty of the CDPOs Posted in Odisha;
The electoral situation in the state of Odisha, where simultaneous polls to Parliament & State Assembly are in process, has become rather volatile and there are instances of gross violation of the political rights of the other political parties and unless it is corrected here and now, the entire electoral process would stand vitiated beyond repair. We wish to bring to your notice several such instances;
INSTANCES AGAINST THE CEO
There are series of other instances, where the CEO, by acts of commission or omission, has favoured the ruling BJD. Following are a few instances:
- On 15.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No. BJPEC-005/2019, a complaint was lodged against Sri Pratap Jena, Minister of Law & Health, Govt. of Odisha for announcing in a public meeting to give Rs. 35 Lakhs to each Panchayat and Rs. 15 Lakhs to each booth along with evidence in the form of CD. However, the CEO has not taken any action.
- On 14.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No. BJPEC-003/2019, a complaint was lodged with CEO against Kumar Nagabhusan, BDO, Rengaliguda who has been working as BJD President and influencing the Sarapanch, Ward Members, Samiti Members in favour of BJD. However, no action has been taken by the CEO till date.
- On 14.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No. BJPEC-001/2019 a complaint was lodged to the CEO against malicious transfer of Govt. servants violating the guidelines of Election Commission of India, so as to appoint them ARO and sector officer with all documentary evidence. However, no action has been taken till now.
- On 13.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No. LD096/19 we have lodged a complaint before CEO regarding continuation of Govt. servants for more than 3 years, but no action is taken by the CEO.
- On 16.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No. LD099 we have lodged complaints before CEO regarding removal of our lawful hoardings by Govt. officials and police, while allowing the hoardings of ruling party in power in the state, but no action is taken by the CEO.
- On 19.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No. CEO/011/19, we have lodged complaints before CEO regarding Govt. servants who are directly participating in election campaigning in favour of ruling party in the state, but no action is taken by the CEO.
- On 20.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No: BJPEC-23/19, we have lodged complaint before CEO, Odisha against Sri Ashish Singh, IPS, DIG, Intelligence and security-in-charge CM, who has been working for BJD ruling party and threatening and criminally intimidating BJP workers, but no action till date is taken by the CEO.
- Leading the group of Government officials is the secretary to the Chief Minister Shri VK Pandian who is not only monitoring the whole process but also actively involved in selection of candidates as well as management of elections for the ruling party. In fact he and several senior officers as mentioned in our letter are de facto incharge of electioneering in the state. They not only monitor the whole process of survey, collection of information, intelligence reports, ground political reports as well as the antecedents of the prospective candidates but also do the requisite manipulation to divert winning candidates from other political parties. Sri Pandian directly monitors the working of all the 30 Collectors and District Magistrates, all 500 odd police stations in the state and other line department officers at the district level. Nothing can move without his approval. The situation has become such that democratic process has been murdered since no district level officers listen to opposition leadership or candidates even in cases of genuine grievances. The officers have become de facto party workers and running election on behalf of the candidates of the ruling party. They resort to all kinds of bureaucratic machination such as not granting permission for rallies and processions in time and forcefully removing hoardings and posters etc. Not only that, under the instruction of Sri Pandian these offices browbeat and intermediate political workers of the opposition and put them behind bars under silly pretext. In fact due to his mischievous and unbecoming behaviour it seems impossible to hold free & fair elections.
- On 21.03.2019 vide BJP Odisha Letter No: BJPEC-26/2019, we have lodged complaint with CEO with evidence that one candidate of the ruling party is distributing money in broad day light, but no action is taken by the CEO.
It is apparent from the instances mentioned above that the CEO is not only not neutral and impartial but is actively aiding and assisting the ruling BJD by either not being responsive to the matters brought before him for redressal or by deliberately creating doubts and confusion in the minds of public by his acts of omission to clearly reply to the media.
It is humbly submitted that all these are a part of a planned conspiracy to influence the voters and the CEO has become a part of this conspiracy. Given the CEO’s disposition and record of his acts of commission and omission, we strongly apprehend that the present incumbent CEO will not be able to act freely and fairly, thus subverting the very basis of a free & fair elections.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & PROGRAMME OFFICER (CDPO)
In Odisha, there are Community Development & Programme Officers (CDPOs) –who deal with the NGOs and involved in community development works. These Officers are block-level officers who monitor and coordinate with the Women Self Help Groups. Through these Officers, the state Govt. transfers funds to NGOs involved in child nutrition and pregnant women’s nutrition etc. The state Govt. provides interest free money through these officers. They are also the Administrative Officer of Anganwadis; hence, they are in a position to influence the voters. It is seen in the past that these Officers have actually influenced voters in favour of BJD, the ruling party. Hence, it is requested that the CDPOs be involved in election duties only in districts other than their districts of current posting.
DIVERSION OF STATE EXCHEQUER FUNDS.
THAT the Govt. of Odisha announced a programme namely Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and income Augmentation (KALIA). In this scheme, the Govt. had assured to give ₹10,000 each in two seasons to farmers and ₹12,500 each to landless people engaged in other occupations allied to agriculture. However, no budgetary provision was made for such scheme. Instead, the Odisha Government used the Contingency Fund usually meant only for unforeseen situations like natural calamities etc. Article 267 of Indian Constitution reads;
Contingency Fund.- Parliament may by law establish a Contingency Fund in the nature of an imprest to be entitled “the Contingency Fund of India” into which shall be paid from time to time such sums as may be determined by such law, and the said Fund shall be placed at the disposal of the President to enable advances to be made by him out of such Fund for the purposes of meeting unforeseen expenditure pending authorisation of such expenditure by Parliament by law under article 115 or article 116.
Using funds for this for regular scheme is a violation of fiduciary and other Constitutional provisions. 36 lakh beneficiaries of KALIA were transferred Rs.5000 each.
- This list of 36 lakh beneficiaries included members of ruling party at all levels. There were instances of family members of MLAs and MPs being included in the list. As the word about this dishonesty and cheating by the BJD spread, it created a widespread discontentment among the people and it only exacerbated when the Govt further extended the scheme to 15 lakhs more people. As the people of Odisha protested against these irregularities, the list of beneficiaries together with the additional 15 lakhs beneficiaries was withdrawn from the public domain.
- Bharatiya Janata Party wanted the list of beneficiaries to be published in the interest of transparency and also to ensure that genuine beneficiaries receive the benefit and the government monies are not used to bribe influential persons within the BJD rank and file.
- Despite several requests for the list of beneficiaries, the government of Odisha neither furnished any list nor put it in the public domain. The matter was brought to the notice of CEO, Odisha, who examined the matter and sought clarification from ECI.
- ECI held that if there is no budgetary allocation and there is no beneficiary list prepared before the MCC came into force, funds cannot be transferred for the scheme.
- Sh. Sasmit Patra spokesperson of the BJD called a press meet on 25 March 2019 and alleged that the CEO under the pressure of the BJP stopped the KALIA scheme. He blamed BJP for depriving the farmers from the benefits being dispensed by the ruling Govt. This was widely telecasted in Media and an attempt was made to establish that the BJP is against farmers.
- The Chief Minister of Odisha Sh. Naveen Patnaik is quoted in a rally in Nayagarh saying “No one can stop KALIA”. The deity Jagannath is also popularly called ‘Kalia’; so people’s sentiments are also involved in this. Hence, such allegation that BJP is stopping KALIA is totally and absolutely false. In addition, Sh. Amar Patnaik, one BJD leader has tweeted;
“Farmers of Odisha should teach BJP a lesson with the might of their precious vote. BJD will leave no stone unturned to ensure that these farmers get their Kalia dues as scheduled — ECI or no ECI diktat.”
- We requested the CEO, vide letter No. LD095/19, to clarify the facts about this scheme. This was followed by a delegation of BJP meeting him on 27 March 2019, with request that a clarification be issued as to what was represented and what the ECI’s orders were.
- The CEO informed the BJP delegation that as per rule 5.8 of Model Code of Conduct, no scheme which does not have a budgetary allocation or a complete list of beneficiaries can be allowed to continue. CEO was expected and duty bound to clarify this position to the people of Odisha. Instead, he intentionally, did not do so solely with the intent to favour BJD, the ruling party.
And finally, we must state that apprehension and perceptions based on historical facts, as listed in foregoing paragraphs must be suitably addressed by the Election Commission of India and the following may please be acted upon in order to restore and sustain the confidence, faith and trust of people and political parties in avowed principles of ‘free & fair’ elections;
- Replace the present CEO Odisha by an officer with impeccable record of fairness, equity and neutrality.
- A central observer from outside the state be appointed to oversee the entire election processes in the state with suitable authority to intervene and take corrective action.
- Immediate removal and replacement of Sarvshri VK Pandian, Secretary to the CM and Ashish Singh, IPS, DIG, Intelligence and security-in-charge CM in addition to another list of officers, already submitted to the CEO.
- Election duties of all CDPOs in the state of Odisha, must necessarily be outside their current district postings.
- Report must be sought from the Govt. of Odisha regarding the alleged instances of grave irregularities with respect to the KALIA Scheme in violation of MCC as has been also stated by the Election Commission of Odisha vide its press note released on 31.03.2019 on KALIA Scheme of Govt. of Odisha.