NANDINI SATPATHY (1931-2006)
Nandini Satpathy was a politician and writer. She was born Nandini Panigrahi on 9 June in Cuttack. Her grandfather, Swapneshwar Panigrahi, had been involved in the early phases of the freedom struggle. Her father was the writer Kalindi Charan Panigrahi who wrote Matira Manusa (Son of the Soil) and was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his services to Oriya literature.
She had begun writing in Oriya before her marriage to Devendra Satpathy. In 1962 she was elected to the Rajya Sabha at the age of 31. Having been re-elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1968. She was appointed Deputy Minister for Information and Broadcasting in the central ministry headed by Indira Gandhi between 1966 and 1969.. 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, 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
In 1998, she was awarded the Sahitya Bharati Samman for her contributions to Oriya literature, which included a translation of Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja into Oriya.
Her tenure was praised by many observers for her commitment to progress and her ability to create consensus, but her closeness to Indira Gandhi was sometimes regarded with disfavour. In 1977, a complaint was registered against her under the Prevention of Corruption Act which proved to be a test case for how the judiciary should investigate a case against a woman. In a widely appreciated judgment by Justice V.R Krishna Iyer several points were clarified, such as the provision that a woman has the right to be questioned at her residence in the presence of male relatives, can be brought to the police station only after she is formally arrested, and has the right to be searched only by a woman.
Nandini died on 4 August 2006 at Bhubaneshwar, after a long illness. She was survived by two sons; Nachiketa Satpathy, and Tathagat Satpathy, Biju Janata Dal MP from Dhenkanal and editor of the Oriya daily Dharitri.