On a day, when 1,122 candidates filed their nomination papers for the upcoming three-tier panchayat polls in the state, a Sarpanch aspirant in Odisha’s Bolangir district made a novel attempt to ensure that he is elected without a single ballot being polled.
The aspirant identified as Sushant Kumar Chhatria from Bileisarda village under Puintala block reportedly promised to pay a donation of Rs 44,000 towards further progress of the partially built Lord Jagannath temple in the Gram Panchayat.
The amount of Rs 44,000 is alleged to be the highest bid money arrived at a public auction held between three other aspirants in an open auction.
Villagers were facing a shortage of money for the completion of the partly built temple. The panchayat polls apparently turned out to be an opportunity to collect money to make up the fund deficit. Besides, people were largely disinclined towards the polls as they feared the possible spread of disease because of the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
To settle the deal, a Gram Sabha was reportedly organised with village elders of three localities -Bandanakata, Kasurpali and Bileisarda- accorded unanimity to the proposal. Chhatria won the Rs 44,000 bid by which he can file his nomination to become the Sarpanch.
“There is nothing wrong with it. Holding polls in the trying times of infection spurt amounts to risking lives. Therefore we had unanimously decided to give the offer to the aspirants to get elected unopposed by paying a donation towards the Jagannath temple construction”, said local residents, justifying their decision.
Meanwhile, the State Election Commission has asked the District Collector to submit a report on the reported incident in the next 24 hours.