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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

In 2019 elections, kinship rules the roost in Odisha

After the Pulwama terror attack, a bitter debate over nationalism may be going all around the country. But in Odisha, none of the bitterness of the debate or any prevailing issue seems to be visible.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2019 14:28 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Biju Janata Dal leader Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo.
Biju Janata Dal leader Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo. (Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

After the Pulwama terror attack, a bitter debate over nationalism may be going all around the country. But in Odisha, none of the bitterness of the debate or any prevailing issue seems to be visible. Rather, the political parties are united over perpetuating their families in politics.

In the western Odisha Lok Sabha constituency of Bolangir, incumbent Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, an ershtwhile royal, takes on Samarendra Mishra, perhaps the biggest poultry businessman in Odisha. Singh Deo’s father, of course, was a former minister and a sitting Rajya Sabha MP from BJD. His younger brother Arkesh Singh Deo has also got a BJD ticket for the Bolangir assembly constituency.

Mishra, the Congress candidate from Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency, is the son of Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra, who is also the Congress nominee from the Bolangir Assembly constituency.

From BJP, former MP Sangeeta Singh Deo is again the party nominee from Bolangir Lok Sabha while her husband and leader of BJP Legislature Party, KV Singh Deo is the party candidate from Patnagarh assembly constituency.

“In Bolangir, the politics swings between Mishras and Singh Deos. They play the game in such a way that no one else has a chance,” says former Bolangir MP Balgopal Mishra.

In the western Odisha district of Kalahandi, Congress has fielded former union railways minister Bhakta Charan Das from the Kalahandi Lok Sabha constituency while nominating his son Sagar Charan Das from the Bhawanipatna assembly seat.

Though many of his supporters are peeved regarding the nomination of Das junior, he is unabashed. “He is addding more votes from the first-time voters. He would weaken my position,” said the seniormost Dalit leader of Congress in Odisha. Similarly, state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik’s son Nabajyoti has been nominated by the party to contest the Balasore Lok Sabha seat. Niranjan is yet to get any nomination, but it’s almost certain that he will contest from Bhandaripokhari assembly seat of Bhadrak.

Though he lost the 2014 polls by a good margin, former PCC chief Prasad Harichandan has once again been nominated by Congress for the Satyabadi assembly seat while his father-in-law Suresh Routray is the Congress candidate from the Jatani assembly constituency under Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha seat.

In Sundargarh district, the state’s second-largest tribal district, the family kinship is more visible in the politics than issues like employment of tribals in local industries.

Veteran Congress leader and former chief minister Hemanand Biswal has opted out from the contest this time, but has played his cards well enough to get tickets for his two daughters from opposite sides of the political spectrum - BJD and Congress. While elder daughter Sunita Biswal is a BJD candidate for the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat, younger daughter Amita is the Congress candidate from the Sundergarh assembly constituency.

In Sundargarh, another family rule that is being perpetuated in this election is that of the Tirkeys. While George Tirkey is the Congress candidate from the Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency, his son Rohit Joseph Tirkey is the Congress candidate from the Biramitrapur assembly constituency.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik who does not get tired of publicising his scorn for family rule, too has not shied away from perpetuating the family line in politics. Though he made it a point that BJD leaders tainted by the chit fund scam would not get a party ticket, he has decided to field the sons of tainted MLAs Pravat Tripathy and Pravat Biswal from Banki and Chowdwar-Cuttack seats, respectively.

Similarly, Baudevpur BJD MLA and minister Bijayashree Routray’s son will contest from the seat in his place.

In Koraput district, Jhina Hikaka has been a BJD MLA from Laxmipur and then MP from Koraput. Now his schoolteacher wife Kaushalya Hikaka has made her electoral debut as the BJD candidate for the Koraput Lok Sabha constituency. Manjulata Mandal has a similar story. She was like any other Odia housewife till the chief minister decided to give her a BJD ticket from the Bhadrak Lok Sabha constituency. Her claim to fame - she is the wife of BJD MLA from Dhamnagar assembly seat Muktikanta Mandal.

Political analyst Rabi Das says it is not a surprise that families rule the roost in Odisha politics. “To build up a political field is more difficult than to set up even a small industrial unit. So political parties prefer family members of the politicians as a fertile field is ready,” said Das.

First Published: Mar 30, 2019 14:24 IST