Himansu Shekhar Rout

In the run-up to the 2024 elections in Odisha, ‘Lungi,’ a traditional costume, has taken centre stage in state politics. Lungi stormed onto the scene after a video of BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik clad in a lungi and appealing to the people to vote for Jodi Sankha (party's symbol), surfaced. 

Naveen Patnaik's sudden sartorial leaning towards the lungi, that too before the elections, triggered reactions from BJP leaders on social media, who questioned the motive citing Odia culture, pride and tradition. 

Earlier yesterday, apparently hurt by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's comments on the video, Naveen Patnaik’s own party leaders Swayam Prakash Mohapatra and Sasmit Patra appeared at a press meet in lungis and lambasted the BJP.

Meanwhile, the BJP has targeted the ruling party. Senior BJP leader Sajjan Sharma took to his X handle and asked, "Is lungi our culture?”

Party leader Samir Mohanty posted on his X handle, “This is Odia asmita (pride) versus slave mentality. Dhoti is our swabhiman and identity, not the lungi.”

BJP spokesperson Anil Biswal, on his X handle, said, "Dhoti is the identity of Odia asmita. Usually, the hawkers from Bangladesh put on lungis. People of Tamil Nadu wear lungis. Lungi is worn while offering namaz. Why the BJD is in love with lungis?”

Yesterday, while campaigning in Laikera, Dharmendra Pradhan made a critical statement referring to Naveen Patnaik's video. 

Addressing the gatheringin Laikera, Pradhan reportedly said, "You all have seen our Naveen Babu, an elderly person, in lungis and jodi sankhas (twin conches). There is a gumasta (agent) who is getting so many things done. At least, he should get an elderly person like Naveen Babu dressed up in a pyjama and kurta. I have respect for an elderly person like Naveen Babu. Should he (agent) have done this to an elderly person?” 

However, BJD leader Sasmit Patra countered Pradhan and said "The handloom sector has its own economy in the state. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has lampooned the handloom sector and the Sambalpuri lungi. He has hurt the culture of Odisha and Sambalpur.”

Earlier, many senior leaders of Odisha like Biju Patnaik, Damodar Rout, and Prafulla Ghadai were seen wearing dhotis. 

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Sarat Kumar Sahu, a resident of Dhenkanal was critical of the ongoing tussle and said, "There are several issues. If we are stuck in lungi, how can development happen?”

Achyutananda Das, a resident of Jajpur said, “People of Odisha never wear lungis. Dhoti is our identity. Doing politics on lungi is ludicrous.”

(By Odisha TV Bureau)