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Nandini Sathpathy

Nandini Satpathy (born: 9 June 1931 – 4 August 2006) was an Indian politician and author. She was the Chief Minister of Odisha from June 1972 to December 1976.

Nandini Sathpathy Nee Panigrahy was the daughter of Oriya writer, Kalindi Panigrahy. Her father, an influential writer, had founded the socialist Samajbadi Society and started the Oriya daily Dharitri in 1974. She was married to Debendra Sathpathy, a Congress politician who later joined the Bharatiya Lok Dal.

Her son Tathagat Satpathy joined the Janata Dal under Biju Patnaik but broke away from the Biju Janata Dal after differences with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. He is now the General Secretary of the newly formed Orissa Gana Parishad.

Political Career

Nandini Sathpathy is one of the few women in Indian politics who rose to high office without dynastic politics or male patronage. As a member of the Indian National Congress she was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Orissa. Between 1966-69, she was a member of the Union cabinet as the Minister of State for Information. She regained the portfolio in 1971. In the interim, she served as Minister of State to the Prime Minister and Minister without portfolio.

Her close association with Indira Gandhi was rewarded when she was nominated to be the Chief Minister of Orissa in 1972. In March 1973 the state was put under president’s rule for one year, but she returned to her position in March 1974. In 1974, she led the Indian National Congress to a victory in the state assembly elections. She remained in office until 1976 and was widely regarded as one of Orissa’s more successful Chief Ministers. With the fall of Mrs. Gandhi in 1977, Nandini Sathpathy left the Congress to join the Janata Party, despite having supported the Emergency. She stood from the Dhenkanal assembly constituency, and was supported by prominent Janata leaders like George Fernandes. With the fall of the Janata government in 1980, Mrs. Sathpathy was left in the political wilderness. She was reelected to the Assembly in 1980 as an independent. In 1985, she founded a regional party called Jagrata Orissa, but she was the only candidate who was elected.

In 1990, she rejoined the Indian National Congress and was a M.L.A till 2000 from Gongia. Her long absence marginalized her within the state party. She was critical of how the party was run in Orissa and had objected to Giridhar Gomang being made the Chief Minister.

Literary Career

She was a well known Oriya writer and her work has been translated and published in a number of languages. In 1998, she was given the prestigious Sahitya Bharati Samman Award, for her outstanding contribution to Oriya literature. Her last major work was the translation of Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja into Oriya.

Court Case

In 1977, a complaint was registered against her under the Prevention of Corruption Act. On the strength of this first information, in which the she, her son and others were shown as accused persons, investigation was commenced. During the course of the investigation she was interrogated with reference to a long string of questions, given to her in writing. She refused to answer any questions. Her counsel argued that under Art.20 (3) of the Indian Constitution every person had a right against self incrimination. Justice V.R Krishna Iyer in a widely appreciated judgment strengthened the rights of an accused, granting her a right to a lawyer and recognizing her right against self incrimination. The court also held that a woman has the right to be questioned at her residence in the presence of male relatives and she can be brought to the police station only after she is formally arrested. She has the right to be searched only by a woman.

Death

She died of an illness at her residence in Bhubaneswar on the 4th day of August ,2006.

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