Notwithstanding people’s opposition to dynastic politics, the number of political families, with more than one member in the poll arena has grown substantially in Odisha.
As many as four father-son duos and one father-daughter are contesting the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State — all belonging to the Congress. Besides, another four pairs — a father-son duo from different parties in two Assembly segments, two sisters in the same Lok Sabha constituency, two brothers in one parliamentary seat, and a husband and wife in one Lok Sabha seat.
While only four families had two members each in the simultaneous polls in 2014, the number of such families has increased to nine this time. The trend is also no longer restricted to erstwhile royal families and a handful of influential families or region specific. It has gotten more diverse.
The Opposition Congress party remains ahead of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party )BJP) when it comes to fielding more than one leader from a family for the ensuing Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
In the Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat, the Congress has fielded former Union minister Bhakta Charan Das, while his son Sagar Charan Das is the party’s candidate for the Bhawanipatna Assembly segment.
Similarly, in Sundargarh, political families are calling the shots.
While the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha constituency is prominent tribal leader George Tirkey, his son Rohit Joseph Tirkey is the party’s nominee in the Biramitrapur Assembly seat. The two daughters of former Chief Minister and veteran Congress leader Hemananda Biswal — Sunita Biswal and Amita Biswal — are also in the fray here. While Ms. Sunita is the BJD nominee for the Lok Sabha seat, Ms. Amita is the Congress candidate against Mr. Tirkey’s son.
In Bhadrak Parliamentary seat, while Madhumita Sethi, daughter of senior Congress leader Ananta Charan Sethi is contesting for Lok Sabha Mr. Sethi himself has been fielded from Simulia Assembly segment under the same constituency.
Further, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik and his son Nabajyoti Patnaik are also in the fray. While the son is contesting for the Balasore Lok Sabha seat, the father is contesting for two Assembly seats – Ghasipura under Keonjhar Parliamentary seat and Bhandaripokhari under Bhadrak Lok Sabha seat.
The scene in Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency is most interesting. While Sangeeta Singh Deo is contesting as the BJP nominee for Lok Sabha, her husband Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo is contesting from Patnagarh Assembly segment as a BJP candidate.
Samarendra Mishra, the Congress candidate from Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency, is the son of Leader of Opposition in Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra, who is also contesting as a Congress nominee from the Bolangir Assembly segment, one of the seven Assembly seats under the Parliamentary seat.
Ms. Singh Deo and Mr. Mishra are contesting against sitting Lok Sabha Member and BJD candidate Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, whose younger brother Arkesh Singh Deo is also the BJD nominee for the Bolangir Assembly seat. Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo’s grandfather, Rajendra Narayan Singh Deo was also the Chief Minister of Odisha and his father Ananga Uday Singh Deo is a sitting BJD Rajya Sabha Member.
Another interesting family is of former Minister Damodar Rout who was ousted from the BJD a few months ago. While he is contesting as BJP’s nominee for the Balikuda-Erasama Assembly seat, his son Sambit Routray is BJD candidate for the adjoining Paradeep Assembly segment. Both segments come under Jagatsinghpur Lok Sabha constituency, a politically sensitive region in coastal Odisha.
The Gunupur Assembly constituency under the Koraput Lok Sabha seat in south Odisha is also witnessing a fierce poll battle involving candidates from their extended families. They include Shishir Gamang, son of former Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang who is contesting as a BJP nominee in the segment.
When it comes to first time contestants from political families, the BJD has fielded sons, daughters and wives of many former legislators and Members of Parliament, followed by Congress and BJP.
The BJD has fielded Kaushalya Hikaka, wife of a sitting Koraput Lok Sabha Member Jhina Hikaka for the same constituency and sons of three sitting legislators for the Assembly polls – Bijayshree Routray’s son Bishnu Brata from Basudevpur segment, Prabhat Biswal’s son Souvik Biswal for Choudwar-Cuttack, Pravat Tripathy’s son Devi Ranjan Tripathy.
In fact, it was BJD president Naveen Patnaik’s change in strategy to counter the anti-incumbency factor. Both Congress and BJP are trying hard to cash in on the same anti-incumbency facing the Patnaik Government.