BJP MP Pratap Sarangi, the newly sworn-in cabinet minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has been ruling the social media since his win in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Sarangi, who lives in a kucha house and owns very little personal wealth is unmarried and uses a cycle as his own personal commute, is recognized grassroots level worker in Odisha. As a matter of fact, his frugal living style went viral when he was photographed packing for his Delhi trip, where he was going to take his oath as the MP of India.
Sarangi has earned a place in the heart of the people of his region thanks to his work and is the only minister of the parliament who can speak fluently in Sanskrit.
Sarangi gained social media fame once his story of how he dedicated his whole life for the upliftment of common people started spreading throughout the country. In the election, Sarangi defeated Rabindra Jena of Biju Janata Dal by 12,956 votes and is considered very close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A Simple Man with a Chequered Past?
While the social media including senior journalists lauded Sarangi’s austere lifestyle, it cannot be ignored that the man hailed as “Odisha’s Modi” has seven pending criminal cases against him. Sarangi’s election affidavit reveals that he has been accused of rioting, criminal intimidation, extortion, encouraging enmity between groups on the grounds of race and religion, and others. Most of these cases were filed during the erstwhile BJD-BJP alliance in Odisha.
In March 2002, Sarangi was serving as the state president of the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of the RSS and a hardliner Hindu youth group. It was during this time that Sarangi was arrested on the charges of arson, assault, rioting, and damage of government property – the legislative assembly of Odisha.
Apart from this, Pratap Sarangi has been associated and accused of a more terrifying and damning case which took place in January 1999. It was during this time that Australian missionary Graham Staines was burned alive along with his two sons aged 11 and 7 by a group of men who were linked to the Bajrang Dal. Sarangi was the chief of that group when this incident took place.
Staines and his sons were sleeping inside a station wagon in the Manoharpur village in Keonjhar when the said vehicle was set on fire. Prior to this killing, the Bajrang Dal led by Sarangi along with the RSS was rigorously campaigning against Christian missionaries alleging that the later was converting the tribals of that region.
Pratap Sarangi was not cross-questioned in the case by the prosecutor when denied any association with the incident and even condemned the killing. However, later he blamed the Christian missionaries of forcefully converting people and said that “Barring a few exceptions, Christian missionaries, to generalise, are idiots.”
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