ECI team’s visit fuels speculation of early assembly polls in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: The visit of an ECI team to Odisha on September 13 to review poll preparedness has triggered speculations of early assembly elections in the state.

Although Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Nikunja Bihari Dhal on Tuesday said the ECI team’s visit has nothing to do with early polls, the three major political parties – BJD, BJP and Congress — have asserted that they are ready for election whenever it takes place.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) team will hold a meeting with all district collectors on September 13.

“EVMs and VVPATs will be examined in October and the process will be completed by November 15. But this process or the ECI team’s visit has nothing to do with early polls. Both Lok Sabha and assembly elections will be held as per schedule,” he said.

Political parties, particularly opposition BJP and Congress, speculated that early polls might be held in Odisha along with five other states later this year.

Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan was among the first politicians from the state to have speculated in recent times that the ruling BJD might seek early polls in the state.

Early polls were held in Odisha in 2004.

Even though the BJD leaders remained tight-lipped over speculations of a repeat this year, they said they were prepared to face polls at any time.

The state government has launched several welfare schemes ahead of the polls, due early next year.

“We have nothing to fear as the people of Odisha are with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik,” BJD legislator D S Mishra said.

BJP MLA Mukesh Mahaling also asserted his party is well-prepared to face elections at any time.

Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Sarat Pattnayak claimed that his party is also ready to face elections whenever it happens as “people have understood that BJD and BJP are two sides of the same coin”.

Senior BJP leader and Balasore MP Pratap Chandra Sarangi, however, asserted that holding separate elections for assembly and Lok Sabha will double the expenditure and hamper development works in the state.

As per the schedule, the next assembly elections for 147 seats in Odisha should be held before June next year.

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