The State Election Commission (SEC), Odisha, Monday asked the district collector of Bolangir to submit a report on the alleged auction of the post of Sarpanch in Bilesarda gram panchayat. The SEC direction came in the wake of a media report where it was alleged that the Sarpanch for the Bilesarda gram panchayat was nominated through auction.
One Susant Chhatria reportedly won the bid by promising to pay Rs 44,000 for the development of Jagannath temple at the village under Puintala block. Bolangir district collector Chanchal Rana said, “I have got information in this regard and an inquiry is being conducted. A report will be sent to the SEC by tomorrow.”
Though the alleged auction took place at a Gram Sabha meeting on Friday, the matter came to the fore on Monday when the filing of nomination papers began in the state. Sources claimed that the meeting was attended by the heads of three villages- Bandanakata, Kasurpali, and Bileisarda- at the Jagannath temple where the alleged bidding took place. Chhatria told a local news channel that he has agreed to pay Rs 44,000 to the villagers for the development of the Jagannath Temple.
“I have agreed to pay under one condition that none will contest against me. If I get elected unopposed, then my expenditure on campaigning will be saved. I will give that money for the development of the temple,” Chhatria said.
Dinabandhu Gartia, a villager, who attended the meeting, said the panchayat elections are being held amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. We thought if we help a candidate to win unopposed, we can prevent gathering and in the process, we can check the spread of the virus, Gartia said. Four persons wished to contest for the post of Sarpanch but Chhatria agreed to give more money than the others, the villager claimed.