A bespectacled frail man, wearing simple white kurta on May 30 took the oath as a minister in a dazzling event at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Pratap Chandra Sarangi’s oath-taking was accompanied by loudest cheers from the audience.
‘Modi of Odisha’, ‘Aam Admi of BJP’ are just some of the titles bestowed upon him. With his appointment, stories of his austere and frugal lifestyle started going around and soon he was hailed as a ‘hero’ over social media.
His election affidavit reveals that his movable assets amount to Rs 1.5 lakh and immovable assets to about Rs 15 lakh. Additionally, he has Rs 15,000 cash in hand. His affidavit is also a testament to his rather dark past. He faces seven pending cases, including criminal intimidation and rioting.
Shady Past Of The Social Media Hero
64-year-old Sarangi is fondly referred to as ‘nana’ in Balasore. He uses his bicycle as the mode of transport. He is said to be an extraordinary orator in both Odia and Sanskrit. In fact, he reportedly travelled in auto rickshaws to seek votes. He has often been spotted walking or cycling to attend sessions at the state assembly, pit-stopping at roadside eateries to grab a bite.
What also further fanned the odds in Sarangi’s favour was that he, a ‘simple man’ defeated Congress nominee, Nabajyoti Patnaik with a family legacy in politics and BJD MP Rabindra Kumar Jena, who is an industrialist-cum-politician.
In March 2002, Sarangi was arrested by the Odisha police. He was then the state president of the Bajrang Dal which was part of the 500-strong mob that attacked Odihsa legislative assembly building. The mob was demanding for the disputed land in Ayodhya to be used for building Ram temple. He was slapped with charges of rioting, arson, assault and damaging government.
In 1999, Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, aged 11 and 7 were burnt alive by a group of men in Manoharpur of Mayurbhanj district. These men were suspected to have links to the Bajrang Dal. Sarangi was questioned in this case, but he denied any wrongdoing. Sarangi, in an interview, denied Bajrang Dal’s links to the killings. Later, Dara Singh, a Bajrang Dal member, was convicted of the crime.
Sarangi has spoken strongly against Christian missionaries. As reported by The Wire, when once asked about his views on the work of these missionaries, he said, “Barring a few exceptions, Christian missionaries, to generalise, are idiots.”