Nandini Satpathy: The Iron Lady Of Orissa – Palavi Rebbapragada (Hardcover)


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Obliterated from the pages of history, as women often are, Odisha’s first woman Chief Minister, Nandini Satpathy, known also as the Iron Lady of Orissa, was born to a family of revolutionaries and intellectuals. During her teenage years in the ‘40s, this petite girl in a starchy cotton saree was jailed for pulling down the Union Jack from atop the edifice of Ravenshaw College.

Thus began the makings of a force to be reckoned with.

Coming up through the ranks to ultimately reach the hallowed halls of the Rajya Sabha at the mere age of 31, this grassroots student politician went on to become the I&B minister in Indira Gandhi’s first government, where she facilitated the working of the Free Bangla Radio that played a key role in the information war that was ’71. She hobnobbed with the likes of Raj Kapoor, Nargis, and Meena Kumari as India produced films around socialist films and warmed up to Russia. And still, in Delhi circles, she is best remembered as ‘Indira Gandhi’s friend’.

Nandini’s political career was as tumultuous as her friendship with Indira Gandhi. They were a close-knit duo, brought together by circumstances and kept together by a strong sense of affection and loyalty. That was until the Emergency. Where once she had enjoyed the proximity to the PMO and all the privileges that it came with, Nandini’s opposition to the Emergency led to a fall from grace. This loss was not just the loss of a friend; it also meant the loss of her political career.

During her chief-ministerial tenure, she implemented radical land reforms and tore down the tobacco trade mafia. These were actions that made her a lot of enemies. Once protected by her friendship with the prime minister, she was now subjected to brutal vendetta. In the twilight years of her life, Nandini succumbed to the deep grief of losing her husband and the ignominy of political obscurity.

This is the story of Nandini Satpathy.


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