Royal reference still reaps rich dividend in Bolangir

Royal reference still reaps rich dividend in Bolangir

Monarchy has long been abolished in India. But it seems to be alive and kicking in Bolangir, the western Odisha district considered to be one of the poorest in the country.

The Singhdeos of the local royal family have been dominating elections in the backward district for long and the ongoing polls would be no different. Just a look at the candidates in fray for the lone Lok Sabha constituency in the district and at least two Assembly segments under it, and one will realise how important the Singhdeos are as far as Bolangir politics is concerned.

Sitting Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Kalikesh Singhdeo has been re-nominated by the ruling regional outfit to contest from Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency and one of his two principal rivals, BJP’s Sangeeta Singhdeo, is none other than his sister-in-law. Sangeeta’s husband and Kalikesh’s first cousin, Kanak Bardhan Singhdeo, the present ‘Maharaja’ of Bolangir — who is also the president of the BJP state unit — is contesting from his traditional Patnagarh Assembly seat, a segment under Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency.

The BJD candidate who is taking him on is his own younger brother Sribardhan’s wife, Prakruti Devi.

Kalikesh’s father and Kanak Bardhan’s uncle (his father’s younger brother), Anang Udaya Singhdeo is the BJD nominee from Bolangir Assembly constituency, another segment under Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency.

Significantly, the Singhdeos have an excellent track record as far as success in elections is concerned.

Anang Udaya has been winning the Bolangir Assembly seat for 24 years without a break and Kanak Bardhan has remained the MLA of Patnagarh for the last 19 years. Sangeeta was an MP from Bolangir Lok Sabha constituency for 11 years, winning three consecutive elections in 1998, 1999 and 2004 till her humiliating defeat in 2009. She was pushed to the third spot after the BJD and Congress nominees.

If Kalikesh’s five-year term since 2009 is taken into consideration, then the backward western Odisha Lok Sabha seat has remained with the brother-in-law-sister-in-law duo for the last 16 years.

The young BJD MP’s 2009 victory had its own significance too because he won the seat by a huge margin of more than 90,000 votes over his Congress rival Narasingha Mishra, considered to be a heavyweight in Bolangir politics.

Mishra, a former state minister, is fighting the current polls from Bolangir Assembly constituency against Anang Udaya. The Congress has replaced him with Sarat Patnaik, a two-time former MP, to take on Kalikesh from Bolangir Lok Sabha seat this time.