In a widely appreciated move, the Odisha government has sought public opinion on holding direct elections for the post of mayor of municipal corporations and chairperson of municipalities and notified area councils (NACs) in the state. The Housing and Urban Development Department recently issued a draft notification to amend the Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of Wards, Reservation of Seats and Conduct of Election) Rules 1994 for the election of mayor and chairperson by people through direct voting.
The move bears the unmistakable stamp of 5T, the transformative initiative of the state government to improve quality of governance with complete transparency and enhanced efficiency. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s secretary VK Pandian also happens to be Secretary to CM Transformation and Initiatives (5T). By holding direct election of the top office-bearers of urban bodies, the government wants to ensure that people’s will is clearly reflected in the choice.
The notification issued by H&UD department allows people to lodge their grievances or objections if any in this regard within a month. Presently, corporators elect the mayor in a municipal corporation while councillors of a municipality elect the chairperson. This leaves scope for lobbying and horse-trading which is not a healthy sign for democracy.
Any objection or suggestion received by the Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department, from any person with respect to the said draft before the expiry of the period will be considered by the state government. The amended rules to be called the Odisha Municipal (Delimitation of Wards, Reservation of Seats and Conduct of Election) Amendment Rules, 2021 will come into force on the date of their publication in the Odisha Gazette.
Significantly, a candidate can contest for both councillor and chairperson’s posts and retain only one if elected to both. Every nomination paper has to be signed by two electors of the urban local body. Besides, there will be separate ballot boxes, one for the election of the chairperson/mayors and the other for the councillor during polling in the urban body elections that have been delayed because of a number of reasons. However, chances of these polls being held now have brightened in the wake of the draft notification issued by the H&UD department.
The move to hold direct election of mayors and chairpersons has been appreciated by one and all. While common people think that this will help them choose the most suitable people for these posts, even leaders of various political parties have welcomed the step which will strengthen democracy at the grassroots level. What is most important is that it will eliminate the possibility of horse-trading in the election of the top office-bearers of urban bodies. This will ensure not only enhanced efficiency but also greater transparency. This is what 5T is all about.