Balasore MP Pratap Sarang became a social media star after photographs of him coming from a meagre background were released. He travels in a bicycle and lives in a hut, quickly attaining sympathy and applaud from the internet. A user wrote on Twitter, “He lives in a small two-room mud house, owns a bicycle and nothing else. Salute to this social worker of Odisha who defeated a billionaire and is now a Minister in the Council of Ministers”.
Sarangi won from his Balasore constituency in Odisha on BJP ticket. On May 30, he was seen taking the oath as Minister of State in two of Modi’s ministries: Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.
However, he has a sketchy past.
According to reports, he faces seven pending criminal cases – for criminal intimidation, rioting, promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, etc., and extortion, among others. Many of these cases were filed during the BJP-BJD alliance government in Odisha.
In 1999, an Australian Christian missionary and his two children were killed by a mob.
Christian community leaders accused the Bajrang Dal of the killings, but an official inquiry found no evidence that any one group was behind the attack.
Orissa-based journalist Sandeep Sahu told BBC that Mr Sarangi has given several interviews, including to him, in which he spoke passionately against what he called the “evil designs” of Christian missionaries who are “bent on converting the whole of India”.
His humble lifestyle and beginnings are celebrated, and some people are even calling him “Orissa’s Modi” – a reference to the prime minister’s humble beginnings.
Often, social media only shows one side of a coin.