Being Pratap Chandra Sarangi: From Grassroot Worker to Minister

Two time MLA and now a BJP MP from Balasore, Pratap Chandra Sarangi, sets a precedent of simple and meaningful life before the people in public life. He still lives in a thatched house and rides a bicycle to serve the tribals in his area
Politics has become notorious for making easy money. That is why it is ‘the most preferred job’ for many people. But there are still some in politics for whom it is genuinely a true path to serve the people. Shri Pratap Chandra Sarangi, who has been elected to 17th Lok Sabha on BJP ticket from Balasore constituency of Odisha, is one such man whose simplicity will astonish everyone. He has been an MLA twice from Nilgiri constituency of Odisha in 2004 and 2009. Still, he lives in a thatched house and rides a bicycle to most places. What most people do not know about him is that he is a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker. He has been Zilla Karyavah of Balasore and was state president of Bajrang Dal. On his victory, BJP general secretary Shri Ram Madhav tweeted: “Salute to the indomitable spirit of the RSS man”. Shri Sarangi is basically a Sanskrit scholar and has wonderful command over Hindi, English, Odiya, Sanskrit and Bengali.
Referring to his association with the RSS, Shri Sarangi says: “I am a swayamsevak and have held many responsibilities in the Sangh. I was also joint general secretary of VHP in Odisha and led Bajrang Dal as its state chief. I was general secretary of Akhil Bharat Gobansha Rakshya Sambaradhan Samiti. Apart from it, I was vice president of Odisha BJP, president of Nikhilotkal Samskruta Mahamandalam and president of All Odisha College Teachers Association. I am also founder secretary of Vivekananda Study Circle, Nilgiri, Balasore.” He is also associated with the Ramakrishna Mission, Vivekananda Kendra, Bharat Swabhimaan, Art of Living and many other organisations mainly working for students, teachers and labourers.
In these elections, the fight in Balasore was basically between money and simplicity. The BJD candidate, Rabindra Kumar Jena, is a billionaire and had a fleet of SUVs and teams of professional campaign managers and election management agencies. On the other hand, Shri Sarangi was taking out auto-rickshaw rallies and canvassed riding his cycle. Finally, he defeated the BJD candidate by a margin of 12,956 votes. “I don’t have to try simplicity. It is my natural lifestyle. I have been like this since childhood. It is not going to change now that I have become an MP. I believe in living and working for the people and the country, and I am going to follow that throughout my life,” he told Organiser in New Delhi.
Popular as Nana (elder brother) in the entire tribal region, where he has been working tirelessly for more than three decades, Shri Sarangi started Ekal Vidyalayas in remote areas in the 1980s to spread education. Another interesting fact about Shri Sarangi is that he saved thousands of cattle being illegally transported to West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh for slaughtering and started a few gaushalas to provide shelter to those cattle at different places. He became instrumental in lodging FIR against the illegal transporters and ensured their arrests. He also organised various programmes on various dimensions of cow protection. By education, he is a graduate, but he is a farmer by profession.
When asked how he came into politics, he said: “I have always been unwilling to be in politics. When I joined the karseva in 1990, I could see that all political parties excluding the BJP and a few others, were against the Hindus. The peaceful karsevaks were shot to death in Ayodhya. It was unbearable to me. I started revolting and I thought I must support the BJP to champion the cause of the Hindus and the nation. But joining the BJP and contesting elections was not on my mind. I wanted to work for BJP because it is the only party, which is genuinely secular. Later, I was asked to coordinate in Nilgiri constituency and I did that. In 2004, I was given a ticket by BJP and I contested and won as MLA. In 2009, I was re-elected from the same seat.”
Now after getting elected to Lok Sabha, he wants to seriously address the basic issues of his constituency. “Nilgiri is densely-populated by poor tribals. Their major problem is education. During my tenure as an MLA, we almost doubled the number of schools in the constituency. Right to Education Act cannot resolve this problem because the question is who will bring the children working in dhabas, hotels or working elsewhere for livelihood to schools. School is ready to impart education, but the challenge is how to bring them to school. I, along with my friends, have attempted to bring about 2500 tribal students to different schools. I also sent many youths to Tirupati Sanskrit University, Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth and other universities of Gujarat for higher education. Now many of them are employed. They are good Sanskrit-speaking youngsters. Some have done Masters and doing Ph.Ds also. I am quite happy and satisfied. But I have miles to go,” he says.
Water supply is another major problem in his constituency. “A large number of people do not have access to drinking water. Irrigation is also very poor. We have to find out ways and means to resolve all these problems. There is no cold storage in the entire Lok Sabha area. We have to work in this direction also. Since Prime Minister Shri Modi is also seriously working on doubling the income of the farmers we also want to work on food processing in our constituency. If we crush a stone it may be worth Rs 300. But if we carve an image on the same stone it will be worth Rs 35,000. This is the value addition that we want to promote. If we allow our farmers to start different food processing units it will increase their income manifold. If mangos are Rs 50 kg the pickle made of mangos is sold at Rs 300 per kg. If the tomato is Rs 10 per kg, the tomato sauce is Rs 300 per kg. If potatoes are Rs 10 per kg the potato chips are Rs 500 per kg. This way we can do value addition. This will ultimately improve the living standard of our people,” he added.
For him and his party BJP, politics is a means to serve the people. “We have to ensure that this means must not be polluted. We believe in nation first, party second and self last. This is the idea and this is the ideology given by BJP to us. Today, I am an MP and tomorrow I may not be an MP, but this sacred ideology should not be given up. With this pious attitude I am in politics,” he added.