Both were born on 1st April, Odisha province and scientist Dr. Pranakrushna Parija. It is often said that good people are not showing any inclination to enter electoral politics. But it is certainly not true in case of Odisha. At least, quite a few renowned personalities contested the Vidhan Sabha elections in 1952. Famous scientist and educationist Pranakrushna Parija is one of them. He was neither a nominated member nor was he fighting on any party’s ticket to take the benefit of that party’s reputation. He contested as an Independent candidate from Balikuda constituency and won in 1952.
Born on 1st April 1891 in village Ichhapur near Balikuda in undivided Katak district, he completed his school education from Ravenshaw Collegiate School, Katak. After completing college education from Katak and Kolkata, he went on to join Cambridge University in London to study Botany and came back to start his teaching career from Ravenshaw College. Known as one of the excellent teachers that Odisha has produced, Parija was a scientist of great repute. He became the first Vice Chancellor of Utkal University after it was established in 1943.
The first general elections to Odisha Vidhan Sabha under the new constitution of India were held in 1951-52. In fact, the process continued from 20th Dec 1951 to 24th January 1952. The major political parties in the fray were Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Socialist Party, Ganatantra Parishad and Forward Block. But many reputed intellectuals chose not to fight on any party’s ticket and wanted to try their luck as Independents. Famous scientist and educationist Dr. Parija was one of them.
It was a very close fight in Balikuda. In fact, it was a triangular fight with Bhagirathi Mohapatra from Congress and Basant Kumar Sahu from Socialist Party in the fray besides Parija. Bhagirathi Mohapatra had an excellent hold on that area and his wife Sarala Devi who had earlier won from Katak town in 1937 had a lot of following among women. But it was Dr. Parija who finally won from Balikuda defeating Mahapatra by a margin of 355 votes. Sahu with 5470 votes finished third.
In the final tally, Congress Party won 57 out of the 140 seats in the Assembly and Ganatantra Parishad finished with 31. Surprisingly, the independents won 24 seats, much above the 18 seats won by all other parties taken together. Congress being the single largest party formed the government with the help of 7 Independents under the leadership of Nabakrushna Choudhury.
Dr. Parija was not a part of the ministry. But his deliberations in the Vidhan Sabha were very very useful. The man who had earned a name in international arena for his research on respiration of plants and one who dedicated his life for scientific research and popularisation of science was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1955. That such a reputed scientist and educationist was a member of Odisha Vidhan Sabha, is a matter of pride for all of us.
*The author is a columnist.