Tathagata Satpathy is a four-time member of the Lok Sabha representing Dhenkanal constituency of Odisha. Born in a political family, it was expected of him to follow the footsteps of his parents. But he pursued journalism and remained away from electoral politics until he was 34. And when he did enter the prophesized profession, he surprised many by joining a party which was ideologically diametrically opposite to what his parents believed in. His mother, Nandini Satpathy, Odisha’s only woman Chief Minister till date, was a hard-nosed politician associated with the Congress during Indira Gandhi’s time. His father, Devendra Satpathy, had a stint with the Congress, followed by the Bharatiya Lok Dal that was born in opposition to Gandhi’s autocratic ways. Tathagata contested his first election in 1990 as a Janata Dal candidate and won.
He is often quoted saying that his mother always supported independent thinking and was not angry when he joined the anti-Congress party.
He was nicknamed as the “coolest politician” by our cyber communities in 2015, after he did an AMA (ask me anything) session on Reddit wherein he said, “while in college, I have smoked (and unlike Bill Clinton have inhaled) cannabis many a times”. He won the internet over with this frank admission, Pink Floyd references, and his sense of humour. In the monsoon session of the Parliament the same year, he proposed for the decriminalization of cannabis.
When our parliamentarians were involved in mud-slinging over the arrest of students of Jawaharlal Nehru University on charges of sedition in 2016, Satpathy was the much-needed voice of reason in the House. His speech in the Lok Sabha chiding our MPs went viral on social media platforms and captured the attention of the nation. The speech goes on as, “I am heartbroken to say that the youth of the country doesn’t deserve us. We are the most undeserving set of people to be in this House today…..I am not interested in taking sides with any of these parties. I am here to hear who has a word of solace and point of solution to the problems that the nation is facing today. Is it only votes that matter? Is it just us and them?”
As the country currently debates the Aadhaar Act and its role in turning our country into a surveillance state, he cheekily says, “George Orwell lacked creative imagination. He would be surprised to see how much is possible with Aadhaar”. He opines, “Privacy is of utmost importance in the modern world. And, Aadhaar is a deadly thing dumped on the unknowing individuals of this country”. He is yet to procure the document for himself. As the government increasingly makes Aadhaar as a compulsory document, “I don’t know for how long I can run away from it?” he adds. As a crusader of rights, he has recently introduced a private members’ bill that aims to do away with decriminalization of free speech. Talking of the Bill, he says, “Most private members bills do not see the light of the day. Although I am not the praying type, I have been doing all sorts of prayers that this one succeeds”.
According to a report by PRS Legislative, Satpathy has a remarkable 100% attendance record in the Parliament. Even though he belongs to the BJD, he was one of the few MPs who voted for Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s Bill on decriminalization of section 377. He has been outspoken on issues of social prominence like women’s reservation, crimes against women, upholding the principles of Net Neutrality, to name a few.
When he is not occupied with fighting battles for a better society, he unwinds by reading, watching movies, and listening music. His favourites include BB King, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, Roger Waters, and Eminem. Although he hasn’t taken to social media yet as he calls himself “a print journalism person”, his office runs @SatpathyLive on Twitter from which he tweets sometimes.
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