BHUBANESWAR: 'Khallikote queen' and 10-time former MLA V Sugnana Kumari Deo passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Saturday. She was 87.
First elected to Odisha Assembly from Khallikote in Ganjam district in a by-poll in 1961, the veteran BJD leader had represented the constituency eight times. She was also elected from Kabisuryanagar two times.
Born in Chennai in August 1937, she belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Khallikote and was popular as Rani Saheba. She was elected to the legislative Assembly in 1961, 1974, 1977, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2004, 2009, and 2014.
Deo had joined politics in 1961 and was first elected on Congress ticket. She later joined Utkal Congress and became an MLA from 1974-1977. She switched to Janata Party and was re-elected from Khallikote in 1977 and 1985. The popular leader continued to win from the same constituency even after she became a member of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in 1997. She moved to Kabisuryanagar after Khallikote was reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and was elected for two terms on BJD tickets in 2009 and 2014.
A member of various committees of the Odisha Assembly, she refused a ministerial berth offered to her several times. She was a pro-tem speaker of the Assembly in 2009 and 2014. A postgraduate from the prestigious Madras University, Deo had interests in writing and several sports, including tennis and cricket.
On Friday evening, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and senior BJD leaders had rushed to the hospital in Chennai where she was admitted for old age-related ailments and inquired about her health. Condolences poured in from various quarters following the demise of the veteran leader.
Apart from the chief minister, Governor Raghubar Das, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and many other dignitaries expressed deep grief on the passing away of Deo.
In a social media post, Naveen said he was saddened to know about the demise Deo. "She was a very senior leader of BJD and she made a lot of contributions towards the party. She has left her mark in public service by representing both Khallikote and Kabisuryanagar. She was elected to the Assembly 10 times. It is an irreparable loss. May her soul rest in peace, and my deepest condolence to the bereaved family," he wrote in a post on X.