To People of Athgarh, Ranendra Pratap Swain Should be the Choice

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Athgarh being my home area, where there are people who genuinely love me and often seek my advice even in their personal/family matters, I wonder, what should my people do in the re-election from Athgarh constituency to Orissa Legislative Assembly?

Had I not been on a foreign tour, I would have campaigned for Ranendra Pratap Swain, because, I feel he should be the choice.

His only drawback is that he is a BJD candidate. Again, it is his plus point.

Let me elaborate.

The viewers of orissamatters.com know that I have shown in earlier discussions how BJD had conspired to keep Swain out of the Assembly, as it is he, who, despite being in the treasury benches, was the voice of conscience against whatever wrong the government was carrying out. Under pressure from above, the Athgarh Returning Officer had replaced his original party ticket lying in his safe custody with a xerox copy and rejected his nomination on the ground of non-submission of the original and inked document. I could have taken it that, keeping the issuance of the party ticket pending till the last moment, the BJD office had issued only the xeroxed copy of the ticket with the party stamp to Swain with the hope that with no time left to submit the papers, he would rush to the RO office and submit the same sans verification at his end. Swain being the sitting MLA had no reason to disbelieve the ticket so received from the party. The issuer of the ticket must have calculated this in advance; as otherwise, a pageboy of Swain’s local office at Athgarh could not have been ready with his papers before Swain and submitted the same and ultimately emerged as the party supported independent candidate dazzling the voters with active campaign conducted in his support by the BJD supremo-cum-Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. But the way, the same pageboy fought the election case up to the Supreme Court engaging costliest lawyers of the country, with the party keeping mum over the entire period, made me convinced that BJD had deliberately played the trick. To represent such a party is not a compelling cause for choice.

But, yet, this is Swain’s plus point.

That, the same BJD has made him its candidate is a victory for Swain. He has made his party understand that its steps were wrong. Despite the discernible subterfuge, Swain has never gone against BJD and its President. This is the greatest proof of his adherence to discipline and principle, which has become very rare in politics.

This is why I feel Swain should be the choice of my people at Athgarh.

It would be not out of place to mention of how forty poor persons have died most pathetically last month in areas not quite distant from Athgarh by consuming liquor, allegedly spurious, leading to resignation of A.U.Singhdeo, the Excise Minister of the relevant day.

This reminds me of Kalandi Behera, the then Excise Minister, who had to resign on 25 April, 2006 after liquor, allegedly spurious, had taken toll of 39 lives in Ganjam, the district of the Chief Minister. Behera had planned to open liquor shops in every nook and corner of Orissa including school areas. And, to fulfill his purpose, an excise policy was created under Notification No.520/2004/1410/Ex dated 28.2.2005. I was the first and the only one to have attacked this evil design in these pages on August 28,2005 under the caption “Orissa is in the worst phase of her life”. Naveen Patnaik’s government wanted to legalize Behera’s design by giving it the shape of a Law. Orissa Excise Bill 2005 was accordingly produced. Before the Bill was adopted, Behera had to go as people of Ganjam started abusing the Chief Minister openly alleging that he was patronizing the hooch mafia as no action was taken against the culprits even after repeated death due to spurious liquor.

After Behera resigned, Debi Prasad Mishra, who represents Baramba constituency from my Sub-Division, succeeded him and the Bill was revived.

Famous Gandhian Smt. Sarala Devi campaigned against the Bill. No political heavyweight was seen supporting Sarala Devi. None from BJD, particularly. As she did not get any active political support from even the Opposition (the Congress party) (and the BJP-now in Opposition- was then in Naveen’s coalition government ), she tried to make a written appeal to members of the Assembly wishing their conscience to wake up to reject the Bill. But she was not permitted to enter into the Assembly premises to do that.

It is Ranendra Pratap Swain alone who stood with Sarala Devi without any care for official position of the Bill. He circulated Sarala Devi’s emotionally charged letter amongst all the members of the House inside the Hall and succeeded in stopping the instant passage of the Bill. It was then sent to a select committee formed with Swain as a member.

It was everybody’s impressions that the government was determined to get the Bill get the select committee approval. But Swain, despite being a ruling party frontbencher, stoutly opposed the intent of the Bill and the select committee had to pass it with single note of descent that Swain had expressed.

This is why I feel Swain should be the choice of my people at Athgarh.

It is Swain again who to the chagrin of the CM had supported the protest of Sambalpur region farmers and general public against allocation of water from Hirakud reservoir to big industries.
It is he, and only he amongst BJD MLAs, who had vehemently opposed the official proposal to give Anil Agrawal 10,000 Acres of land for Vedant University at Puri.

He was the man who had on records supported the Niyamagiri campaign and demanded that the mines monger be not allowed to tamper with living environment and natural faith epitome of the tribes.

In the Assembly, every now and then, Swain was seen as the pro-people voice against administration as and when executive steps seemed anti-people.

This is why I feel Swain should be the choice of my people at Athgarh.

In Athgarh, Swain is being challenged mainly by the Congress and the BJP. When the Congress under prime-ministership of Dr. Manmohan Singh has been working as an agent organization of American interest and has been actively pursuing a nuclear deal that Singh has signed with USA on dotted lines, which, in reality is coined to provide a “bonanza for US firms” (Reuters, August 25, 2007) and “is so clearly in the interest of the United States” (Reuters, August 14, 2007), the BJP reminds us how, when in power, it had drowned the country so much in corruption and destruction of India’s public sector while coloring its misrule as Bharata Udaya that the Election Commission had to use force to put under cover its hoardings, built up all over India by misusing national exchequer. Notwithstanding who are the candidates of these two parties, it would be contributing to nullification of awareness against corruption and misrule if any of them get electoral support.

On the other hand, despite all its failing and anti-people activities, BJD stands on the ground of allegiance to Orissa as the State’s only regional party. Orissa needs a strong political party of her own for safeguarding the interests of the State. In these pages, I have severely criticized Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his failings and for misrule. Yet, to me, BJD is better than the Congress and the BJP in in absence of a strong communist alternative. It is Orissa’s own party and should be considered a permanent feature as leaders are always temporary. It should not be allowed to be defeated by either the Congress or the BJP, for misguided faults of its leader.

In a political party where its leader is known by the epithet ‘supremo’, sycophants are the greater dangers than the so-called supremo himself. From the few instances I have mentioned above, it is clear that Swain is not a sycophant.

This is why I feel Swain should be the choice of my people at Athgarh.

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