Odisha: With zero bank balance, Purna and Ramesh are taking on crorepatis in the hustings

Both have borrowed Rs 5,111 each to deposit the security money to file their nomination papers.
Purna Chandra Majhi,
Ramesh Kumar Mahanand
Purna Chandra Majhi, Ramesh Kumar MahanandPhoto | Special Arrangement

BHUBANESWAR: Amidst the crorepati and lakhpati politicians in fray for first phase Assembly elections in the state, scheduled on May 13, there are two candidates who have disclosed zero bank balance in their affidavits.

Sans money, these MLA contenders - Purna Chandra Majhi, a small vegetable farmer of Rayagada district and Ramesh Kumar Mahanand, an auto-rickshaw driver of Kalahandi - are finding support from people of their localities. While Purna is fighting for Rayagada (ST) seat on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket, Ramesh has filed his nomination for Bhawanipatna (ST) seat as an Independent. Purna has been with BSP for the last three decades but Ramesh is a political greenhorn.

Both have borrowed Rs 5,111 each to deposit the security money to file their nomination papers.

A resident of Sanamatikana village under Kashipur block of Rayagada, Purna had contested the last Zilla Parishad polls from Rayagada on a BSP ticket but failed to secure a win. Taking lessons from his experience in the rural elections, he has been focusing on establishing a stronger connect with the people at the grassroots in his segment this time.

The election expenses, he said, is being entirely met out of public donations. “We have been approaching people ever since the elections were announced and they are helping us generously with cash and kind. Some even arrange vehicles for us to campaign and others help us with food,” said Purna who is a 9th Class pass.

He grows seasonal vegetables for a living on a small patch of ancestral land and does social work in his panchayat. “Because of my political links, I have been facilitating administrative and medical help to the local villagers whenever they need, for many years now. This time, locals suggested that I fight the Assembly polls because there isn’t enough representation of our issues in the state Assembly,” he said adding, his poll planks are drinking water and health.

Ramesh, likewise, drives a rented auto-rickshaw and also helps in managing a small shop of his family to eke out a living. A resident of Naktiguda, he is being helped by his friends and people of the locality including all shopkeepers to fund his campaigning. Ramesh, who is known in the area for helping accident victims reach hospital in the golden hour and providing food to children on the streets, chose to enter the political arena for the cause of poverty and employment.

“I have completed my BA but like many graduates of my district, I did not get any job. Youths continue to migrate from Kalahandi to other states in search of work. If the elected leaders were doing their job, why would unemployment and migration from this district continue?” he questioned.

Ramesh, who is campaigning on a two-wheeler along with his friends, said he has not been able to cover all the areas in his segment due to paucity of funds. “But I am confident of votes from people who I have met so far. Because they relate to the issues that I am raising,” he said.

Although pitted against heavyweights, the two contenders assert that they are doing their best to win the segments.

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