Pramila Bisoi, a social worker from the nondescript Cheramaria village in Odisha, is fast spreading her wings as the Pari Maa (Fairy Mother) of the masses in the Aska parliamentary constituency, from where she is contesting as a Biju Janata Dal candidate.
For the past five decades, this 68-year-old woman has been helping in safe delivery and proper care of newborns in her village. “Even 50-year-olds in our village call her Pari Maa in reverence,” says her nephew Arabind Bisoi. At public meetings in Purishottampur and Patapur earlier this week, crowds kept up the chants of Pari Maa all through.
Ms. Bisoi, however, never utters a word against her opponents while campaigning. “I am a mother to all. How can I be against anyone just for elections?” she asks. “My greatest strength is that winning or losing has no meaning for me, I am just enjoying the responsibility given to me by Naveen Patnaik,” she says.
Married off at the age of five and forced to leave school, Ms. Bisoi has been working towards social emancipation of women in her village ever since her days as a teenaged bride. “It all started with sanitation and women’s health during childbirth. Later I became the leader of a Women’s Self-Help Group and the local Van Surakshya Samity,” she reveals.
Ms. Bisoi was cooking midday meal for students of a primary school in her village when she received a call from the BJD headquarters asking her to reach Bhubaneswar. Getting a party ticket for the Aska Lok Sabha seat came as a real surprise to her.
But CM Naveen Patnaik had taken into account her organisational capacity among women. She is the secretary of WSHGs in Aska block. “Earlier I was only working for the women of my area. But with the blessings of Mr. Patnaik, I have taken up the responsibility of 70 lakh women linked to WSHGs under the ‘Mission Shakti’ programme in Odisha,” she says.
Around 140 members of 14 WSHGs in Cheramaria are her regular campaign partners now. Wherever she goes for campaigning, hundreds of women reach out to greet her.
Ms. Bisoi is facing a triangular fight in the Aska seat, where voting will take place on April 18. Her main opponents are CPI’s Ramkrushna Panda and BJP’s Anita Subhadarshini.