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2 India Hockey ex-captains Dilip and Prabodh vie on Odisha's electoral turf

By Arabinda Mishra
April 13, 2024 16:46 IST
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They have played captain innings in astroturf while representing the Indian hockey team, but this time they are trying their luck in the electoral battlefield in Sundergarh district, often referred to as the cradle of hockey in Odisha.

IMAGE: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launches Trophy Tour of FIH Hockey World Cup 2023, in the presence of Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey (right) in Bhubnaeswar, December 6, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

They are Hockey India president and former Rajya Sabha MP Dilip Tirkey and ex-Indian hockey team captain Prabodh Tirkey.


While Dilip Tirkey is the ruling Biju Janata Dal candidate for the Sundergarh (ST) Lok Sabha constituency, his junior and former India hockey captain, Prabodh Tirkey is the Congress candidate from the Talsara (ST) assembly segment also in Sundergarh district.

Both the BJD and Congress have picked Dilip Tirkey and Prabodh Tirkey in the electoral battle as Sundergarh is known as the cradle of hockey in the state and the game is very popular among the masses.

IMAGE: Former Indian hockey captain Prabodh Tirkey (third from right) joins Congress in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, September 4, 2023. Photograph: ANI on X

According to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, "Hockey is a way of life in tribal-dominated Sundergarh where toddlers start walking with hockey sticks."
Dilip Tirkey, 46, is pitted against former Union Minister and sitting BJP MP Jual Oram from the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat.

"It is good that Dilip is in the fray. He is certainly a master in the hockey field, but I am a seasoned player in politics," Oram, a five-time MP said, adding that the BJP will retain the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat.

Dilip, who announced his retirement from hockey in 2010 after playing over 400 international matches, is also a former Rajya Sabha MP, claimed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's popularity along with the BJD government's good works for the tribals will help him to win the polls.

Both Oram and Dilip Tirkey had faced each other in the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat earlier in 2014 when the BJP candidate won the seat by a margin of 18,829 votes.

After a gap of 10 years, Tirkey and Oram will face each other again in the electoral field.

While Dilip Tirkey has started working on a BJD strategy, Oram is visiting the villages across the parliamentary constituency, attending small functions and spending nights in tribal villages.

Tirkey and Oram both hail from the tribal community.

The BJD has never won the Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat which has been won either by the Congress or BJP.

Oram was elected to Lok Sabha from this seat in 1998, 1999, 2004, 2014 and 2019.

"I lost the 2009 elections to Congress's ex-CM Hemananda Biswal due to a wrong strategy," Oram said.

Of the seven assembly segments under the Sundergarh Lok Sabha constituency, BJD has two MLAs, Bharatiya Janata Party three and one seat each is held by Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Talsara is one of the seven assembly segments under the Sundergarh Lok Sabha constituency from where Prabodh Tirkey has been nominated by the Congress. The BJP candidate Bhabani Shankar Bhoi won the 2019 assembly elections in Talsara, a stronghold of the Congress.

Prabodh has announced to bring back the Congress's lost glory at Talsara. The Congress has won the Talsara assembly segment in nine out of 12 elections held between 1974 and 2019.

Prabodh, 39, who started informally meeting people before formally launching his election campaign, said he never stopped connecting with the people but is yet to formally kick-start his campaign. "I am getting a very positive response from the Congress people. They are excited to get me as a candidate," Prabodh said.

Apart from being a former star international hockey player, Prabodh is also the younger brother of another hockey icon Ignace Tirkey.

Prabodh returned to his home in Nuapada village of Balishankara block after quitting his job with Air India. He is facing sitting MLA Bhavani Shankar Bhopi of BJP and BJD's Binay Toppo.

Both Dilip and Prabodh are popular and need no introduction to the people, particularly the youth.

They have seen both Prabodh and Dilip in action on television, the duo need to display their heroism in the electoral battlefield.

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