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Aparajita Sarangi: From Bureaucratic Brilliance to Political Powerhouse, A Journey of Unwavering Commitment to Public Service

Indian Masterminds Stories

In a world where conformity often reigns supreme, Aparajita Sarangi stands tall as a trailblazer, a woman who has defied conventions and carved her own path. Her journey is an odyssey that has taken her from the hallowed corridors of bureaucracy to the tumultuous realm of politics. Her career is a testament to the power of determination and an unwavering commitment to public service.

Aparajita was born to Ajit Mishra and Kusum Mishra in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar on 8 October 1969. Her father Ajit was a professor of English. She did her schooling from Mount Carmel Convent in Bhagalpur and BA (Honours) English from Bhagalpur University. She cleared UPSC CSE in her first attempt in 1994 and got Odisha cadre. Her husband Santosh Sarangi too is an IAS of Odisha Cadre of the same batch. She has two grown up children.

She served as the Collector and District Magistrate of Nuapada, Koraput and Bargarh districts in Odisha from 1998 to 2006. She earned a reputation for being a fair and compassionate administrator. She was known for her ability to connect with the grassroots and implement innovative solutions to longstanding problems.

Sarangi’s rise to prominence began during her transformative tenure as the Municipal Commissioner of Bhubaneswar from 2006 to 2009. It was during this period that the city underwent a metamorphosis. It shed its lackluster image and emerged as a vibrant, modern metropolis. Streets once plagued by disorganized vendors were transformed into streamlined rows of shops. City’s walls blossomed with the vibrant hues of tribal Saura-style paintings.

Sarangi’s impact extended far beyond mere aesthetics. She was often spotted at dawn, personally supervising the sweeping of the city’s streets. A hands-on approach endeared her to the residents and enhanced her reputation as a tireless public servant.

From 2009 to 2013 she served as secretary in various departments in Odisha Government like School Education, Panchayati Raj and Textile.This unwavering dedication to her work got her prestigious Shakti Samman in 2012.  Her efforts in Bhubaneswar left an indelible mark. Some of her initiatives continue to shape the city’s landscape long after her tenure.

In 2013 she was shifted to the Central government as Joint Secretary for Ministry of Rural Development in the Government of India where she continued to work till 2018.

This was one of the defining moments of her bureaucratic career. She ensured successful implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Sarangi’s commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability in the program’s execution earned her praise from all quarters, further solidifying her reputation as an administrator par excellence.

Working closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during her tenure at the Ministry of Rural Development, Sarangi found herself deeply inspired by his working style, dedication, transparency, and ability to extract similar commitment from those around him.

After an illustrious 24-year career in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Sarangi embarked on a new chapter in 2018, taking voluntary retirement to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This bold move was driven by her desire to impact lives on a broader canvas and her alignment with the party’s vision for the nation’s development.

Sarangi’s decision to join politics was not a spur-of-the-moment choice but rather a well-considered move driven by her desire to contribute on a larger canvas. As she herself stated, “If I had sought an extension with the Centre, I’d still be limited to one ministry. I wanted a larger canvas than one department.” Her choice of the BJP was influenced by her belief that the party’s priorities aligned with her own – a focus on development and progress.

In an interview later, she said, “There were three parties — the Congress, the BJD, which has been ruling Odisha for 20 years, and the BJP… The Congress was out of the question because there is a leadership crisis in the party. The BJD was counting its last days… What does one look at when joining a party? You look at the objective. The objective of the BJP is development and that attracted me. I admire Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work, determination, willpower, transparency and accountability.”

In another interview, she contrasted her experience with her perception of the Biju Janata Dal. “Had I not visited 25 states and 450 districts during the five years I was with the Centre, I would have remained a frog in a well,” she said.

In the 2019 Indian general election, Sarangi contested as the BJP candidate from Bhubaneswar, taking on the formidable Biju Janata Dal’s Arup Patnaik, an IPS himself who retired as Police Commissioner of Mumbai. Her campaign was a whirlwind of energy and determination. She traversed the length and breadth of the city, connecting with people from all walks of life. Sarangi’s communication skills, along with her reputation as a no-nonsense administrator, resonated with voters. This ensured her victory in the hotly contested election though with a slender margin of less than 24000 votes.

As a Member of Parliament, Sarangi emerged as a vocal critic of corruption and inefficiency. She has not been afraid to challenge the status quo and demand transparency in governance. Her speeches in the parliament have been widely lauded for their clarity, coherence, and passion.They earning her respect from across the political spectrum. Appointments to various parliamentary committees, including the prestigious Standing Committee on Urban Development and Ethics Committee, provided her with a platform to shape policies and drive change at the national level.

Because of her versatility and communication skills, Aparajita was appointed national spokesperson of BJP. Soon, she became a household name and face that met the opposition’s criticism and allegations with a cool head and with logic. Soo after, she was elected to the executive committee of Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU).

She has again been fielded from Bhubaneshwar though her opponents have changed. Her approach to politics and issues however, is unlikely to change. At the very outset, she read out a list of works she did as MP of Bhubaneshwar during past years. “Projects worth Rs 7916 crores have been approved for Bhubaneshwar during past fove years. That’s the best way to start a campaign. One needs to convince people that they have at least a working MP”, she said.

As Sarangi navigates the unpredictable waters of politics, her grounding in her bureaucratic past remains her anchor. Her bureaucratic experiment has given wisdom, resilience and integrity to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. Whether in the halls of parliament or in the dusty bylanes of her constituency, her dedication to the people she serves remains steadfast. It is also a testament to the enduring spirit of a true public servant.

With every step she takes, Sarangi continues to inspire, challenge the status quo.She is expected to leave an indelible mark on the lives of those she serves.


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