Odisha Gets Its Own ‘Modi’
A surprise pick from Odisha in Modi Cabinet, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, was the talk of the nation for a quite sometime recently for his spiritual way of life. While senior BJP leaders have tweeted about him with his photos of riding a cycle, his living in a thatched house and simple living style were viral all over. After his induction in Union Cabinet, he has been allotted the MSME, Fishery & Animal Husbandry department.
On April-14-15, 2017, BJP National Executive Meeting was held in Bhubaneswar. After a long time, BJP National Executive was organized there to focus on the state. Party Central leadership had decided to have it in Bhubaneswar after it emerged No-2 in Zila Parishad elections, leaving principal Opposition Congress to distant third. An old bearded man was waiting among the dignitaries to receive Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. After accepting flower bouquets from Governor, Union Ministers and Sr BJP leaders, Modi approached him and after handshake had a little chat with Sarangi and announced Hamara Sabse Purana Our Mazboot Sainik (he is our old, trusted and strong lieutenant). Every time PM visits Odisha and especially during electioneering, he never misses any chance to have a small chat with him. And especially for him, PM Modi came to Balasore and had a rally in Basta to canvass for Pratap Sarangi.
For 64-year-old Pratap Chandra Sarangi, a first time MP from Balasore, he is known as ‘Pratap Nana’ among his villagers and friend circle. He was sworn in as Minister of State in Modi Government 2.0 on 30th May. The invited guests at the forecourt of Rastrapati Bhavan were overwhelmed at his being inducted in the Union Cabinet. 15 years back, he was heading Bajrang Dal in Odisha, and was the state joint secretary of VHP. An out and out Hindutva activist, known for cow protection activism, he has become popular now-a-days in social media as ‘Modi’ of Odisha. His pursuance for spirituality has attracted many.
Sarangi is in news these days for his simple living, low-profile lifestyle and being the poorest among all the 21 elected MPs of the state with a declared asset (both acquired and inherited) to the tune of Rs 13,46,226 (it was 10 lakh in 2014). He doesn’t possesses any vehicle, jewelry. He has not filed any returns during the last five years. Seven cases are pending against him, though he is not convicted in any case. He is probably the poorest among elected MPs in 17th Lok Sabha. A two-times MLA from Nilagiri–once on a BJP ticket in 2004 and second time in 2009 as an Independent candidate after his party denied ticket to him–he fought unsuccessfully as an MP candidate in 2014 general elections from Balasore, as he had lost to BJD’s Rabindra Jena with a huge margin of 1.42 lakh votes. This time a strong Modi wave across the nation favored him and Modi himself came and addressed a huge rally in his constituency as a result, he won with a slender margin of 12,956 votes. Interestingly, he was pitted against two millionaire industrialist and sitting MP of BJD Ranindra Kumar Jena and another industrialist Navajyoti Patnaik, who happens to be the son of PCC President and former Minister Niranjan Patnaik. Patnaik Junior is the richest among Parliamentary candidates with assets worth Rs 104 crore. And so is Jena with declared assets of 57 crore. While both Jena and Patnaik launched hi-tech campaigns, used luxury cars, Sarangi, on other hand, opted to campaign on auto-rickshwa. And he won the hearts of the people. For quite a long time, Balasore seat was with INC and CPI alternatively, and for the first time Janata Dal snatched the seat from Congress in 1989. BJP candidate got elected from there in 1998, and again in 1999 and 2004. After a long period, former Union Minister Srikant Jena won this seat on a Congress ticket in 2009 and it went to the ruling BJD in 2014.
A bachelor RSS ideologue, he is widely accepted for his oratory skills as he speaks well in Sanskriti, Odia and Hindi and for his firebrand speeches. Sarangi after graduating from Fakir Mohan College in Balasore had joined Nilagiri College as a Sr Clerk but he did not remain there for long, as he always liked to do social service and was happy with mingling with children and youths. During that time he was very active in Sangh Pariwar activities and for a quite a long time he was into cow protection campaign.
A reluctant politician, he had joined Ramakrishna Mutt to be a monk in his early life but Ashram sent him back to serve his ailing mother and communities there. He worked for educational development and well being of tribals and served the people of his locality Nilagiri besides Balesore and neighboring Mayurbhanj districts. He has established many schools in tribal hinterlands of this region. He spends a major chunk of his MLA pension on education for children.
His humble background, honesty, simplicity and soberness won many hearts across the state. That’s why people see him as a potential alternative to Naveen Patnaik, as Naveen continuously winning hearts of people of the state elections after elections because of his clean image and honesty. According to political observers, BJP central leadership might have given thought about it and kept in mind to pit Sarangi against Naveen Patnaik to revive the party’s fortune in Odisha.
Born on January 4, 1955, in a poor family of Gopinathpur Village, 3 km from Nilagiri town, Sarangi still lives in his ancestral thatched house built with mud and bamboo and rides a bycycle. Clad in dhoti and kurta he lives his life with limited needs.
Immediately after results came out Sangh activists started a virtual campaign – His photos of cycle riding from his village with a small bag to catch a bus or a train, sitting in verandah of his home, his interaction with villagers etc went viral and many people placed comments on these posts, and forwarded them to their friends on Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Even mainstream media also got caught up with these images and ran stories on them. Seeing his popularity among the people, it might have forced PM Mod and BJP President Amit Shah to consider his name, though there were 7 other MPs from Odisha, of whom two women–one IAS-turned-politician Aparajita Sarngi, who in her maiden political entry elected from Bhubanswar Parliamentary seat, another ministerial probable was Sangeeta Singh Deo, third time MP from Bolangir and wife of Kanaka Vardhan Singhdeo, former state BJP president–then former state President, now party’s Bengal in-charge National Secretary Suresh Pujari, a first time MP from Baragarh. Significantly, this time party dropped a veteran among the winners, former Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who served both the Atal Behari Vajpayee and Modi Governments. He won the tribal-dominated Sundargarh Seat this time and last time also. In 2014, he was the lone BJP MP from Odisha.
Sarangi, one of the National Executive members of the party, thanked Prime Minister Modi and BJP President Amit Shah besides Dharmendra Pradhan for their gratefulness and expressed desire to serve the nation.
By Sudarshan Chhotoray from Bhubaneswar