Pradeep Pattanayak

While the leaders fielded by the three prominent parties - BJP, BJD and Congress for the Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat are yet to kick-start their campaigning, they have come up against a stiff opposition from the Kui Samaj, a powerful tribal organisation in the district. 

Terming BJD’s candidate Achyuta Samanta as non-tribal, the tribal outfit has demanded the party to withdraw its candidate. Protesting against Samanta’s candidature, they recently staged a demonstration by burning his effigy and sloganeering ‘Achyuta Go Back’. 

Upping the ante, they have threatened to call for a Kandhamal Bandh on April 16 if the party doesn’t withdraw its candidate. 

Not only BJD, but BJP and Congress have also attracted the ire of the Samaj for the same reason of fielding candidates from outside of the district. 

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“We don’t know where Achyuta Samanta comes from. Don’t we have capable leaders in the seven Assembly constituencies,” said Mukunda Kanhar, president of the Phiringia Kui Samaj. 

On the other hand, Samanta denied any discontent brewing over his candidature.  

The Kui Samaj has also made it clear that it won’t accept Congress’ candidate Surada Pradhan for the Baliguda Assembly seat terming him a non-tribal. The samaj is also opposing Kalpana Kanhar, BJP’s pick for the same seat, for the reason of marrying a non-tribal. Congress’ nominee for the Phulbani Assembly seat, Pratibha Kanhar is also facing opposition because of her marriage to a non-tribal. 

“We do not recognise Congress candidate Pratibha Kanhar as a part of the Kui Samaj because of her marriage outside our community,” said Abani Kanhar, secretary of the Kui Samaj Seva Samiti, Phulbani. 

“Pratibha Kanhar is the daughter of an active member of the Kui Samaj. Her husband belongs to the Sabar community, which is also an Adivasi community. So, she has the right to contest in the election,” said Chandrasekhar Parida, Kandhamal district Congress president. 
“Kalpana Kanhar’s parents are adivasis. She herself is an Adivasi. They have certificates to prove that they belong to the Kandha community,” said Bhagaban Mohanty, BJP’s state executive member. 

In the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district, over 53 per cent of the total population belongs to the Kui community. In 1995, the Kui Samaj fielded Dasarathy Behera who fought the election as an independent candidate and won too. 

“Kui Samaj can ensure the victory of anyone they wish,” said Lambodar Kanhar, secretary of the Kui Samaj Coordination Committee, Phulbani. 

“Phulbani, Baliguda and G Udayagiri are Kui-dominated places. Except for these three places, general voters can decide the fate of a candidate,” observed Ajay Singh, a Phulbani resident.

  • Reported by:
  • Trinath Sahoo