Mrunal Manmay Dash

Gone are the days when politics used to be a means to serve people. Blame it on mind-boggling corruption or continuous bad publicity done by Bollywood, politics in India nowadays is not considered as a career choice nor politicians are revered in our country at par with scientists, artists or sportsmen.

Being said that, there are still some politicians hidden from the limelight, for obvious reasons, who swear by Gandhian principles and still consider the ubiquitous ‘dhoti’ as their go-to attire for any outdoor events.

Baghamunda village under Jharsuguda’s Lakhanpur block houses such a dhoti-wearing politician, Makaradhwaja Pradhan, former MLA from the then Socialist Party.

Pradhan was elected to the Odisha Assembly in 1952, the very first election of the independent India. He had won from Ambabhana-Mura Assembly Constituency in the undivided Sambalpur district.

Pradhan, who turned 100 on Saturday said, “Politics was meant to serve the people back then. Nowadays, it has become more self-centric and selfish.”

Sharing an interesting anecdote, Pradhan said, “I was in Ravenshaw college when I saw, elected representatives were the only people by whose signatures a common man could enter the Assembly or the Secretariat. Though I never thought of becoming a politician, the sheer magnanimity of the politicians compelled me to join it.”

“Personal relationship was the key to win elections back in our time. No money or muscle power would bring you votes,” said Pradhan.

In fact, according to Pradhan, he had spent only Rs 850 in the campaigning. While the amount was not too small in the 50’s, it is still just a fraction of what MLA candidates are spending nowadays in one election.

His eyes lighted up when the OTV correspondent asked him about the mode of transport in election campaigns. “It was my bicycle of course. There were not many motorable roads, neither we had money to afford vehicles to campaign. Even the then Chief Minister, Nabakrushna Choudhury did not have a car. More than money, we relied on interpersonal relationships to woe voters,” he said.

Despite being a former politician, Pradhan does not want anyone from his family to join politics. He has five sons, six daughters and countless grand children and great grand children. One of his great grand daughter, Pranati Nayak is studying medicine. “You can see a spark in his eyes whenever you ask him about his politician days. He elaborately narrates every anecdotes he remembers from his Assembly days.”

The centenarian politician who is still going strong at this age and never hesitated to wear his dhoti to the Assembly, has just one suggestion for youths; “Join politics, only if you are self-dependent. You should not come here searching for ways to earn money.”

(Reported By Bhagirathi Sahu, OTV)