Bhubaneswar, Feb 14:

Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Tuesday alleged that the District Collectors and Superintendents of Police (SPs) in Odisha are acting as General Secretaries of the ruling BJD in the ongoing panchayat elections.

He urged the State Election Commission (SEC) to ensure free and fair poll in the next four phases of the panchayat polls.

“The SEC should instruct the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police to ensure free and fair elections in the state. The officials are bound to comply to the order of the SEC as per the Constitution,” said the Minister.

The Bharatiya Janata Party also lodged a complaint with the SEC on Tuesday.

“We have requested the commission to use its constitutional powers and exercise control over the government officials who are involved in election management and direct them to act accordingly to ensure free, fair and impartial elections in the state,” said Odisha BJP Vice President Sameer Mohanty.

However, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) rubbished the allegations of the opposition party.

“The BJP leaders, be it the Union Minister or any other leader, should ask themselves if they are giving responsible statements or not. If he has any evidence about any poll-related discrepancies, he should give it to the SEC,” said BJD spokesperson Shashi Bhusan Behera.

While the first phase of the panchayat polls was held on February 13, the next phases will be held on February 15, 17, 19 and 21. (IANS)