Paradip, Jan. 24: If charity begins at home, politics, apparently, starts within the family in Kendrapara district.
The panchayat polls have triggered a divide in families with candidates locked in acrimonious battle against their own kin.
Their bond was firm and rock-solid till the other day. But the polls threaten to break up family ties in many villages.
The poll arena has thrown up intriguing scenario with mother-daughter, father-son and brother-brother and grandmother-granddaughter locked in fights over supremacy.
Family fight has evoked considerable curiosity as well as excitement in the polls.
Tarulata Jena is contesting against her daughter Rashmita from Koilipur gram panchayat for the position of sarpanch, while Agani Prusty finds her granddaughter Sushri Sangita as one of her opponent for sarpanch post in the Kuhudi gram panchayat election.
In another intriguing battle, a father is fighting against his son. Sanei Kandi is pitted against his son Dinabandhu for ward membership in Gangapur village. In yet another fight of blood relation, Bijoy Bhoi is contesting against his younger brother Sarat Bhoi from Sishua village for ward membership.
At Baradanga gram panchayat in Mahakalpada block, sisters-in-law Pushpalata Rout and Rashmirekha Jena are contesting against each other for the post of sarpanch. At Kantapada gram panchayat in Rajkanika block, Bikash Chandra Das is fighting against his nephew Gyan Ranjan Das.
This bitter poll rivalry in which family members have locked horns have left voters confused. Family relationships and loyalties are usually very strong and also very important in the social life in the villages. However, the emergence of blood relatives as political rivals in panchayat polls is bound to affect the bond at least for a period of time, said an elderly from Koilipur village who also seemed worried about the dimensions close family relationships would take over political rivalries.
However in some of the areas, a fierce family contest was averted by withdrawal of candidature.
"My spouse Rinarani had filed nomination papers against me. She had contested last time and had lost the polls. So she was insistent to fight the election this time. However she has withdrawn from the contest after she realised that her candidature would affect my victory prospects," said sarpanch contestant from Andara gram panchayat in Pattamundai block Upendra Mallick.
"I had decided to contest. Accordingly, I had meticulously planned the poll strategy as well. I had cultivated close rapport with voters for the past four years. However, my daughter has thrown a spanner on my plans as she also chose to contest for the same post. I tried my best to persuade her to withdraw her nomination papers because her candidature would dent my victory prospects. But, to no avail," said sarpanch post contestant from Koilipur gram panchayat Tarulata Jena.
Sanei Kandi, fighting for ward membership from Gangapur village said: "My opponents have hatched a conspiracy by fielding my son in the polls against me. If I lose the polls or if he loses, our relationship is bound to get strained."
"The trend is disturbing to say the least. The healthy family relationship would become the only casualty of this. Such poll battles should be discouraged for the wider interest of a congenial social environment," said social activist Biraja Kumar Pati.
However, the fight has evoked a lot of interest among the voters.
"We are keenly watching the campaigning. From our area, a woman candidate is locked in a quadrangular contest for sarpanch election with one of the contestants being her granddaughter. Panchayat polls were never this interesting," said Bhakta Charan Mallah from Kuhudi village.