Politicians or political parties cannot purchase votes if the voter is not for sale, noted Chairman of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Prof Trilochan Sastry while stressing on level of awareness amongst voters about the consequences of electoral malpractices which promote corruption and bad governance.

The Odisha Election Watch that organised a convention here announced it would launch a massive awareness campaign in villages across the state against electoral malpractices and its consequences. Prof Sastry, a former Dean(Academics) at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, said the malpractice can end if voters are aware of the consequences of cash for- vote practice.

In his welcome address Coordinator of OEW Ranjan Kumar Mohanty described about the activities of the forum and its network across the State. “Our main goal is to bring required political and electoral reforms, bring voters awareness & promote free and fair election.

With active participation of all stakeholders, we hope the mission can be achieved and faith on democracy restored,” he added. Former Director of Health Services Dr Seba Mahapatra said a principal challenge in democracy is holding the elected leaders and the government accountable.

“Citizens need to exercise their rights in a responsible way, else it leads to endless conflict with those in power”. Former chief secretary and core team member of OEW Sahadev Sahoo felt increased turn out in ethical voting and youth participation in the voting process can usher in the desired change.

State General Secretary of BJP Bhrigu Baxipatra shared his experiences he gained over the last one decade on electoral process and different methods adopted by political parties to lure voters. He sounded very pessimistic on the change in practice given the magnitude of money and power involved in the process.

The ruling BJD spokespersons Tejaswar Parida however was very optimistic about the change. He said all stakeholders, including voters need to change their mindset and come forward with the single motto of free and fair election.

Speaking on the session “electoral funding, transparency in political party finances “ speakers stressed on limitation of election expenses for political parties. Former ministers Panchanan Kanungo, Ganeswar Behera, CPI leader Santosh Das, CPI[M], Sajan Sharma, BJP, Sulochana Das ,BJD, expressed their grave concern over increasing trend of use of money power in elections.

Sj Dharanidhar Nayak, Advocate Odisha High court (INC), Souribandhu Kar, CPI, Lenin Mohanty, Advocate, Dhaneswar Mohanty, Advocate, expressed their concern over criminalisation of politics. Prof Surya Narayan Mishra, Baikuntha Nath Panigrahi, Amiya Bhusan Tripathy chaired the sessions.