Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 5:
In Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) election managers are of late finding it very hard to get favours from the officials of the district administration and the police who are now a scared lot – thanks to the crackdown on three district collectors and a DIG level officer for allegedly aiding and assisting the ruling party by the Election Commission.
A district collector of the IAS cadre, talking to OST under condition of anonymity, said he now has an excuse not to oblige the overbearing BJD leaders in his district, who had taken the administration for granted and were acting as if they are above law.
“They are under the impression that we are part of their party apparatus and that it is our duty to serve their interests and overlook their wrongdoings. Thank God and the EC for cracking the whip. Otherwise, they would have made our lives miserable,” he said.
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Odisha Dr Mona Sharma while talking to OST said, the problem is allegations of malpractice, manipulations and violations of the model code etc that reach them are never specific in nature and therefore taking action become difficult.
Dr Sharma said, since all the observers appointed by the Election Commission are already there in the field, any information on foul play or malpractice by any official or political party should immediately be passed on to them.
“These observers are independent officials with no links, whatsoever, with the state or district administration and they report directly to the Election Commission. People who have definite information on any wrong doing or violation of the model code must report the matter with specific details to them without any sense of fear,” she said.
However, certain sources alleged that both the ruling party election managers and hardcore BJD loyalists among government officials are working out a foolproof strategy to beat the EC surveillance and carry on with their clandestine racket, that involves ‘safe’ delivery of huge amounts of unaccounted for hard cash to the party candidates.
“One of the methods of transferring huge amounts will be the ‘hawala’ route in which case money need not be physically transported from one point to another. Local moneybags have been identified and it is they who would pass on the cash to the candidates after the matching amount has been deposited with their associates or branches in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack and this practice will be adopted by the big parties ” a source in the thick of things said.
The source further said, ‘pliable’ officials in most districts are willing to take the risk of going beyond their call of duty –which is the model code of conduct in this case- to help the ruling party because they believe it is the BJD which will be voted to power yet again. Moreover, many of them feel they owe their present positions of authority to the ‘blessings’ of the ruling party and also that it is ‘pay back time’ for them.
“While 108 ambulances and police jeeps will continue be used to carry cash, there would be extra precautions taken to make sure they are kept informed about the movement of the local surveillance teams and to send small amounts in installments rather than all at one go,” an opposition party candidate, who is keeping a close watch on such clandestine operations by officials in his constituency, revealed to OST.
One source alleged that the ruling party has deployed its ‘moles’ at crucial points to monitor in advance the surveillance plans and raids and frustrate every attempt to catch them red-handed.