Jagabandhu Godangi is a candidate for a party which literally means prosperous Odisha (Samrudha Odisha).
But for all practical purposes, Godangi (34) is a pauper – in his affidavit filed before the Election Commission, he has put a big, bold 'NIL' against the column meant to declare
details of his property.
Godangi, the party's candidate for the Chitrakonda assembly constituency in Maoist-dominated Malkangiri district, is perhaps among the poorest candidates in the state and even the country.
"That's true. I do not even have a bank account," Godangi told HT over telephone while canvassing in a village, about 700 km southwest of Bhubaneswar.
Odisha is going for simultaneous polls for 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats to be held on April 10 and 17. Samrudha Odisha has fielded candidates for assembly polls mostly in southern Odisha.
Godangi stays with his wife and two children in a modest one-room house built on government land in Podaghat village.
How can Godangi compete with other candidates who have lots of funds for campaigning? The tribal youth, who was a sarpanch from 2007 to 2012, said his party has given him Rs. 20,000 for campaigning and promised more.
"Besides, part of the salary of my wife, a peon in a local primary school, also goes to my poll expenses," he said.
Godangi's vehicle for campaigning is a modest bicycle. He loads his bicycle on a bus or passenger jeep to go to remote areas. "My supporters wait for me at predestined points and take me to the villages for canvassing," he said.
In 2009, Godangi had fought the assembly elections on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket. At that time, he had a motorcycle that helped him cover the constituency.
Though he lost the elections, he got about 5,000 votes but later sold the motorcycle due to financial constraints.
Why is he contesting again when he has become poorer?
Godangi, who has studied up to Plus Two, said he was addicted to politics after becoming a sarpanch.
"I have done a lot for poor people as sarpanch and I sincerely want to do something for my area and avail government schemes for the poor people if I become an MLA. Most of them live in areas where no government employee has ever visited," he said.
Godangi said people loved him when he was a sarpanch and now he was getting good feedback from them. "They will not disappoint me this time," he said.
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