Political Times

“Civility in Austerity”

Widely hailed as Odisha’s Modi, Pratap Chandra Sarangi first grabbed the national airwaves when he received the loudest cheers during the swearing-in ceremony of the second term of the Narendra Modi government. After Modi, it was Sarangi who generated such a hysteric reaction from the consuming audience.

Sarangi, an erstwhile MLA from Balasore’s Nilgiri constituency is known to be a politician of unimpeachable integrity. He was often conspicuous by his fiery speeches in the Odisha legislative assembly where he used to launch a blistering attack on the Naveen Patnaik led BJD government for its flaws and foibles. He had both his own party and the Opposition in great awe. His is an aura few in state politics few could match and fewer could emulate.

But for all his body of work and unblemished image, Sarangi was hardly known outside of Odisha. It was during the 2019 polls when Sarangi emerged as a giant killer, vanquishing the sitting MP of Balasore Rabindra Jena who fought on a BJD ticket. Sarangi is the resplendent example of how the politician next door could beat  a rival wallowing in power and pelf.

Observers feel Sarangi was Modi’s pick for the new Council of Ministers. The perception rings true because BJP has won eight MP seats in the Lok Sabha slugfest and many heavyweights were billed as key aspirants for the ministerial posts. Sarangi is believed to have got a call from BJP’s national president Amit Shah after his superlative success in the elections. And, he was allocated the ministry of MSMEs and animal husbandry. The social media ran amok with pictures and graphics depicting the minister’s humble home in Balasore.

The time of reckoning for Sarangi arrived when he was given the opportunity to deliver the Motion of Thanks on behalf of the ruling BJP led NDA. He uttered a power packed, multi-lingual speech, inter mingling English, Hindi, Odia, Bengali and Sanskrit. Sarangi was effusive in his praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his towering leadership. He unleashed an acrid attack on leaders shy of reciting ‘Vande Mataram’ and the ‘tukde tukde’ gang which sowed the seeds of communal schism in the country.

He went on to aver that the six decades of Congress misrule had atrophied the system but the Modi government made all efforts to revive it. Without naming former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sarangi said, “Policy paralysis was a new norm during those ten years. And it was Congress which made us realise the importance of strong leadership”.

Thanking the Congress party, Sarangi said that a villain was needed to bring out the hero. He also narrated a dialogue between Ram and Kekayi (characters from Ramayan) and said that the former was grateful to the latter for sending him into exile.

Born in a small village of Gopinathpur in Balasore’s Nilgiri, Sarangi from his childhood was a spiritual seeker. He aspired to be a monk at the Ramkrishna Math and nursing this desire, he made multiple visits to Belur Math in Howrah. He immersed himself in social activities in his region. In his capacity as a district level volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), he opened several schools for the poor.

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