When the Congress released another list of candidates for the Assembly elections in Odisha late on Friday, two names stood out.
Subhashree Panda, wife of jailed CPI (Maoist) leader Sabyasachi Pada; and Sangram Mohanty, son of Dandapandi Mohanty, who is alleged to be a leading sympathiser of Left-wing extremists, have been made candidates from the Ranapur Assembly constituency in Nayagarh district and Surada in Ganjam respectively.
Both candidates are facing trials on charges of aiding banned outfit CPI (Maoist). They have each spent over two years in jail at different points in time.
The two candidates have their tasks cut out in the upcoming elections — fighting a battle of perception and uplifting the morale of Congress workers.
“I am out on bail in two cases. I have been exonerated in one case. When it comes to my image, being the wife of Sabyasachi Panda, I am absolutely clear. My husband had been fighting for the poor and oppressed. I will to continue to do so by participating in the election,” said Ms Panda, who is unapologetic about her past.
Sabyasachi Panda, a former top-rung Maoist leader of the CPI (M), was involved in over two dozen cases, including the attack on Nayagarh armoury in 2008 in which 14 police personnel were killed. He was arrested in July 2014.
“I will bank on development issues. People have seen misrule and underdevelopment when Ranapur was represented by BJD and BJP candidates. My father-in-law Ramesh Chandra Panda, who was MLA of Ranapur, had initiated a number of development works, I am committed to carry those forward,” she said.
Mr. Mohanty, an engineering graduate, is the son of Dandapani Mohanty, who had mediated with the government on behalf of Maoists for the release of two abducted Italians.
“I have been slapped with 19 cases mostly related to supporting the CPI (Maoist). All cases were fabricated and even the Supreme Court had reprimanded the State government for filing false cases,” said Mr. Mohanty.
“I never believed in communism. I will talk about development. Track records of two of my opponents from BJP and BJD are bad. I will fight to prove myself and I am confident of winning.”
When asked about the Congress choosing candidates who are facing charges relating to Left-wing extremism, party spokesperson Satya Prakash Nayak said: “What police say is not gospel of truth. Those who espouse independent views have been abused by the system. The party will always stand with people who have taken up issues of the oppressed.”