The passing of batons from seasoned politicians to their sons and daughters is not new to Odisha, but rather a widespread practice across the country

Bhaskar Parichha

In a recent speech in Nabarangpur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proclaimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to form a government in Odisha for the first time, ensuring that a son or daughter born in the state will be appointed as the chief minister.

Drawing inspiration from his statement, let us explore how relatives – sons, wives, and daughters – have been included as candidates in the 2024 election race by all three major political parties.

The Biju Janata Dal, under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, has taken a strategic approach by replacing several incumbent MLAs to prevent anti-incumbency. Interestingly, the replacements have predominantly been either the sons or wives of the outgoing MLAs.

Notably, there is a particular emphasis on the wives, aligning with the party’s commitment to promoting women in politics. Given the unwavering support of women voters towards the party, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been advocating for a 33% reservation for women in both the parliament and state legislatures nationwide.

Election Debut
The party has decided to replace senior BJD leader and sitting Morada MLA Rajkishore Das with his wife Preetinanda Kanungo this time. Similarly, in Angul, sitting MLA and former minister Rajanikant Singh has been replaced by his wife Sanjukta. In the Sorada assembly constituency, which is part of the Aska parliamentary seat, three-time MLA Purna Chandra Swain has stepped aside for his wife Sanghamitra. These women will be making their debut in the upcoming elections.

Another notable woman debutant from the BJD is Indira Nanda, the wife of former state minister Rabi Narayan Nanda, who is contesting for the Jeypore assembly seat under the Koraput Lok Sabha constituency.

Subhasini, the spouse of former Balasore MP Rabindra Kumar Jena, is currently participating in the electoral race from Basta, one of the seven assembly seats within the Balasore parliamentary constituency. This constituency is experiencing an intriguing competition this time, as former union minister and BJP candidate Pratap Sarangi is facing off against his own party defector, Lekhashree Samantsinghar, who is the BJD candidate for this seat.

In the case of Bangiriposi, Sudam Marndi, the sitting MLA and state minister, who is contesting from the Mayurbhanj Lok Sabha seat, has been substituted by his wife Ranjita. Likewise, in Paradip, Sambit Routray, the incumbent MLA, has made room for his wife Geetanjali. Additionally, on the Raghunathpali assembly seat, Subrat Tarai, a three-time MLA, has been succeeded by his wife Archana Rekha Behera.

The party has chosen to nominate the offspring of current MLAs in certain constituencies due to various factors such as old age and lack of interest in running for re-election. The Chikiti seat in Ganjam serves as a prime example of an incumbent MLA’s hesitance to make way for the political debut of the next generation. Usha Devi, a former minister and a six-time MLA from this seat, has declined to run for re-election, leading to her son Srirup Deb being selected by the BJD to contest from their traditional stronghold.

Calculated Step
Likewise, Ankit Pratap Jena, the son of BJD heavyweight Pratap Jena who is excluded from the election due to a pending criminal case, is set to enter the political arena by contesting from Mahanga assembly seat.

Arabinda Mohapatra, the son of veteran Bijoy Mohapatra, who was ousted from BJD two decades ago, will be running as the party’s nominee from Patkura, a constituency his father had previously represented multiple times in the state assembly.

Geetanjali Devi, a 28-year-old scion of the former Dharakote royal family and daughter of ex-MLA Nandini Devi, is one of the youngest candidates in the current election from Sanakhemundi.

Additionally, the sons of former Puri MLA Maheshwar Mohanty and former speaker Surya Narayan Patra are also contesting in this election from Puri and Digapahandi assembly seats respectively. Similarly, the sons of BJD old-timers, Souvic Biswal is contesting for the Chowdwar-Cuttack seat, as Devi Tripathy from Banki.

Selecting emerging leaders is a calculated tactic that proves to be successful in not only overcoming anti-incumbency but also preventing internal dissent within the party. Several of the leaders who were not given tickets this time hold significant influence and could have jeopardized the chances of the party’s official candidates by putting up proxy candidates.

To avoid this scenario, the party has opted to nominate their spouses and offspring. In doing so, the party can also be recognized for its efforts in empowering women and the younger generation.

Among the notable candidates from Congress who have received tickets are Lipika Majhi, the daughter of Bhujabal Majhi, a former three-time Congress MLA from Dabugaon assembly constituency in Nabarangpur district. Lipika, a doctor, was elected as a zilla parishad member from Papadahandi zone in 2022.

Debasmita Sharma, the daughter of former Congress legislator Devendra Sharma from Aul in Kendrapada district, is also running for office. Debasmita, also a doctor, has been nominated by the Congress.

Upasana Mohapatra, the daughter of former Congress MLA Lalatendu Bidhyadhar (Lulu) Mohapatra from Brahmagiri constituency, is contesting on a BJP ticket from the same seat. Similarly, Mohammad Moqim’s daughter Sofia is also vying for a seat from Barabati-Cuttack constituency on a Congress ticket.

It is a common trend in India for politics to be a family affair, with multiple generations entering the electoral arena. The 2024 general and assembly elections in Odisha have witnessed a significant number of young and educated offspring of politicians taking over the reins from their parents.

(The author is a senior journalist and columnist. Views expressed are personal.)


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