Lok Sabha elections 2019: Family ties influence Odisha politics

Till a couple of months ago, Navjyoti Patnaik was best known as a low-key Delhi-based businessman. Now, the son of the Odisha state Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik is slogging long hours in Balasore as the party’s Lok Sabha candidate.

Senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Arjun Charan Sethi, a five-term MP, quit the party as his son was refused a ticket from Bhadrak. Sethi and his son, Abhimanyu, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and four days later, the latter’s name was announced as the saffron party candidate from Bhadrak.

Cutting across political spectrum, family lines are a dominant factor of Odisha’s electoral politics. Experts say many of these families have huge tracts of lands and fat purses, and therefore, come with formidable resources.

To be sure, political dynasties in Odisha are nothing new. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik is the son of former CM Biju Patnaik, and while he is a bachelor with no family members in politics, his party depends on a number of other influential families.

Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, son-in-law of former CM JB Patnaik, is fighting the assembly election as a BJD candidate from Khandapada. In Balangir, sitting MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo is the son of Ananga Udaya Singh Deo, the BJD’s Rajya Sabha MP. Kalikesh’s younger brother, Arkesh Narayan, had debuted this year from the Balangir assembly seat. The coastal state is holding simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Facing Kalikesh is his sister-in-law Sangeeta Singh Deo. While Sangeeta, a three-time BJP MP, will try to wrest the seat from Kalikesh, her husband KV Singh Deo is trying to retain his Patnagarh assembly constituency.

In the neighbouring Bargarh, many posters of BJD heavyweight Prasanna Acharya also feature a younger face– his nephew Debesh Acharya, who is fighting in the assembly constituency of Bargarh.

In Congress, senior leader Narsingh Misra’s son, Samarendra, has got the ticket. In the Sundargarh Lok Sabha seat, former Odisha CM Hemananda Biswal’s elder daughter, Sunita, is the BJD candidate while younger daughter, Anita, will be fighting as a Congress candidate for the Sundergarh assembly seat.

BJD’s Lok Sabha floor leader Bhartruhari Mahtab defended the selection of candidates with family ties. “The ultimate test of a candidate lies with the voters. If he is acceptable to voters, he or she can represent them at the legislative bodies. But mere kinship is no guarantee of victory.”

Dilip Panda, former professor of Gangadhar Meher University in Sambalpur, said family ties ensure access to resources for election. “Most of these families are very wealthy. They also own huge tracts of land and the livelihood of thousands of farmers and their families—who are also local voters—virtually depend on them. So, it’s easy for them to influence some voters and spend more money than the peers.”’

In the 2014 elections too, Kalikesh and Mahtab — son of former CM Harekrishna Mahtab — were in the poll fray.

Former vice-chancellor of Berhampur University, Aditya Prasad Padhi, argued that political dynasties were expanding in the state. “I think the number of candidates related to senior leaders have seen an upward trend in the last few elections. The scope of new candidates who have worked up from the grassroots is limited as parties want to give tickets to people who can win the seats.”

First Published:
Apr 16, 2019 07:10 IST

Source: Read Full Article