Odisha Elections 2024: Gamangs & Pangis Resent Denial Of Congress Ticket; What Will Be Their Next Move?

Koraput: Denial of ticket to the family members of veteran tribal leaders Giridhar Gamang and Jayaram Pangi by Congress in the first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Odisha has surprised many in the state. Also upset are the family members of Gamang, a former Chief Minister, and Pangi. The omission of the two influential families is seen as a significant signal in the political landscape of south Odisha.

81-year-old Gamang, who served as Chief Minister from February 1999 to December 1999, had also been elected from the Koraput Lok Sabha constituency nine times between 1972 and 2004 before being defeated by BJD in 2009 and 2014. His wife Hema Gamang also had a stint representing the Koraput Lok Sabha seat after winning the election in 1999. However, not a single member of Gamang family has been able to get Congress ticket.

Notably, Gamang family had left Congress in 2015 and joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Gamang, his wife Hema and son Shishir had joined the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRRS) last year for a brief period before returning to Congress fold recently apparently with a hope to contest the 2024 elections.

While Gamang’s son Shishir was an aspirant for the Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat, Hema had applied for Gunupur assembly constituency under Koraput Lok Sabha seat. However, despite the family’s historical significance in south Odisha politics, they failed to get nomination by Congress for the upcoming polls. Political observers note a diminishing influence of the Gamang family over tribal voters, as seen in electoral debacles in recent years.

While senior Gamang is yet to speak on the issue, Shishir has expressed dismay over the party decision to exclude the family from its candidates’ list. Though he was an aspirant for Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat, Congress has fielded Bhujbal Majhi in the constituency. “We are shocked and hurt over the decision and unable to figure out how it happened. I was an aspirant for Nabarangpur Lok Sabha seat, but the party has chosen Bhujbal Majhi,” Shishir said.

He further claimed that the possibility of a deal to ensure the defeat of Congress cannot be ruled out. Claiming that Bhujbal Majhi’s family has got four tickets for the upcoming polls, Shishir sought to know as to how so many members of the family could be nominated by the party. “We will speak to the central party leaders on the issue. There are many people who have given their lives for the party and they have been sidelined during selection of candidates,” he claimed.
Similar is the story of Pangi, who had first crossed over to the BJD, then the BJP before going BRS. He again joined Congress in December 2023.

As per sources, Pangi was hopeful of a Congress ticket for the Pottangi Assembly seat in Koraput district this time, but the party has given a ticket to Ramchandra Kadami instead. Pangi seems to be in a state of shock following denial of Congress ticket.

Political observers feel that the grand old party could not repose faith on the two families. Gamang family’s debacle in electoral politics started in 2009 when the former CM lost the Koraput LS seat to Jayaram Pangi, who was then in BJD. In the same year his wife Hema lost the assembly polls from Gunupur assembly seat. In 2014, Gamang was again defeated by BJD’s Jhina Hikaka in Koraput LS seat and his wife who had switched over to BJD from Congress. She contested the 2014 assembly polls from Laxmipur seat on a BJD ticket but lost the election, in spite of chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s wave sweeping across the state.

Similarly, Pangi who had entered into the state assembly at the age of 25 by winning the Pottangi assembly constituency under Koraput Lok Sabha seat in 1977 as a Janata Party candidate and a four-time MLA from Pottangi constituency, found himself omitted from the Congress ticket despite his recent entry into the party.

Expressing resentment, Shishir virtually hinted at a possible challenge to the decision. “We are shocked over the ticket distribution and will put our grievance before the appropriate authority,” he said.

On whether he would jump into the fray an independent candidate, Shishir said, “Nothing has been decided. There is time. Let’s see what happens. We will first speak to senior leaders in Delhi.”

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