KENDRAPARA: For 72-year-old Duryodhan Mohanty, the new sarpanch of Barunadia gram panchayat in Rajkanika block, it is a hat-trick of wins in the rural polls. A hero of Bangladesh’s Liberation War and also the president of Kharasrota Banchao Sangram Samiti (KBSS), Duryodhan won the sarpanch election by 489 votes by defeating his nearest rival candidate Rajanigandha Nayak.
Duryodhan had won the sarpanch seat of Barunadia for the first time in 2007 and again in 2012. In 2017 polls, he could not contest as the post of sarpanch was reserved for SC candidates. This time, he was elected for a record third time as the sarpanch of Barunadia.
“I carried out many development works in the panchayat during my last two tenures as sarpanch. By electing me for the third time, the voters have once again reposed their faith in me,” said the septuagenarian.
When Duryodhan returned to his native village in 2002 after serving in the Indian Army for three decades, he was struck by how little it had changed. “Since I had nothing more to achieve in life, I made it my goal to help people.”
Being the president of KBSS, he spearheaded the protest against the proposed Rs 754 crore mega drinking water project on the Kharasrota river last year. He led a large number of people of the riverside villages in Aul and Rajkanika blocks to oppose the project. This had a bearing on Duryodhan’s election success this time.
“On the pretext of providing water to people, the State government has planned to supply water to multinational companies and big business houses for running their plants and industries. If the companies are allowed to draw water from the river, the water level will fall drastically in Kharasrota and adversely affect farming in Kendrapara district.
As I am leading the movement against the project, many villagers voted in favour of me,” Duryodhan said and added, before diverting water from the river under the project, the government should first build a barrage on Kharasrota.
Sarat Mohanty, a villager of Barunadia, said people voted for Duryodhan as he did many development works in the panchayat when he was the sarpanch. “Our panchayat was connected with pucca roads and drinking water pipelines during his tenure. He is also fighting to save our river Kharasrota,” he added.