Odisha: BJD fields grassroots worker from Aska seat

Naveen Patnaik. PTI file photo

The politically-sensitive Aska Lok Sabha constituency in southern Odisha has always been in news for various reasons.

It was once represented by the late Biju Patnaik, the former chief minister of Odisha and father of the current chief minister and president of the Biju Janata Dal, Naveen Patnaik. 

And when Patnaik junior decided to enter politics after his father’s demise in the 1990s, his first stop was Aska. He was elected to the Lok Sabha thrice from the constituency, to become a union minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee cabinet before becoming the state chief minister in 2000.

Now Aska is in the news again, not for hosting political heavyweights but for Pramila Bisoi, a poor woman from a remote village in the area, who has been chosen by the BJD to contest the upcoming polls from the prestigious seat.

The elderly woman, now in her late 60s or early 70s, has become the talk of both political and non-political circles since BJD announced her candidature.  

Pramila first came to the limelight in Aska decades back, when she led villagers to turn a barren land near a hill in her village, Cheramaria, into a dense green forest. Her work fetched her many awards.

BJD sources, however, state that she caught Patnaik’s attention a few years ago, for her work to empower women in the region through SHGs (self-help group) with the help of Mission Shakti, an initiative of the Goa government for supporting women across the state.

Pramila currently heads an SHG in her village which supplies mid-day meals to an upper primary school.

“Her selection to contest the coming Lok Sabha polls is our tribute to nearly 70 lakh members of SHG groups across the state”, Patnaik quipped while announcing Pramila’s name. Since 2000, the chief minister has been representing Hinjli, an assembly segment under Aska Lok Sabha constituency.

Pramila, who could study only up to class three, has four children – two sons and two daughters. While her elder son, Dilip, runs a tea stall, her second son Ranjan earns his living from a two-wheeler repairing outlet in the village. 

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