Bissamcuttack: The state government is laying stress on digital campaign mode for the upcoming panchayat polls due to surge in spread of Covid-19 infections in the state.
However, the move is unlikely to gain pace with majority of the regions in undivided Koraput district lacking in mobile and internet connectivity. Thus, it will be a challenge for the candidates to reach out to voters in areas without network facilities.
As a result, candidates will not mind violating Covid norms and carry out their campaign physically in their respective areas.
According to reports, over 962 villages in Rayagada district and 552 villages in Koraput lack internet connectivity. The issue was raised by Koraput MP Saptagiri Ulaka in the Parliament.
The undivided Koraput district was bifurcated into four separate districts of Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur and Koraput in 1992. The formation of four separate districts has completed 30 years by now.
Majority of the regions in these four districts are yet to see internet facilities. As a result, people of these areas have remained cut-off from the rest of the world even in this digital age.
Notably, three-tier panchayat polls will be held in February for which the nominated candidates have started filing their nominations. Restrictions have been imposed in conducting physical campaigning due to spike in Covid-19 infections.
The candidates have been asked not to move from villages to villages in rallies and processions and use public address systems (PAS) for campaigning.
They have been asked instead to use social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter more and more for campaigning and reach out to the voters.
This seems to be a remote possibility as many of the areas in Rayagada district also lack internet connectivity. The Raskola, Kurli, Kanabai and Sahada panchayats under Bissamcuttack block do not have internet facilities.
Similar is the case with 13 villages in Dukumu panchayat and three villages in Jhigidi panchayat. In the absence of internet facilities, it will be a challenge for the candidates to reach out to their voters, some political leaders associated with these areas said.
This has put the candidates of various political parties in a fix. In the absence of campaign, the voters will find it difficult to vote for their choicest candidates.
It is apprehended that candidates might violate the Covid norms imposed by the state government and go for physical campaigns. In this situation, the role of district administration becomes all the more important.
It is to be seen if the district administration will take any action against the candidates participating in physical campaign in violation of Covid norms.
When contacted, Devi Prasad Pattanaik, a candidate for the post of samiti member said that he will move on his bike and only meet two to three supporters per day.