BHUBANESWAR: Over the decades the sartorial preferences of politicians have undergone change like everything else under the sun. The traditional dhoti-kurta, which once epitomised the spirit of leadership and social service for politicos across the country, has been replaced by debonair attires, what with soaring fashion consciousness and the media’s favourite pastime of commenting on Narendra Modi’s pinstripe suit or Arvind Kejriwal’s ruffled muffler. However, there are still a handful of public representatives left who prefer to maintain a unique identity by clinging to the eternal dhoti-kurta.
Be it leader of the Opposition from Congress Narasingha Mishra or former minister and Paradip MLA Damodar Rout, a few veterans in the Odisha Assembly can be spotted donning the dhoti-kurta. Mishra even flaunts a Nehru jacket or bundi in a bid to accentuate his traditional look. Although politicians like BJD leader and Higher Education Minister Ananta Das, former Rajya Sabha MP Baishnab Parida, and former finance minister Prafulla Ghadai often wear dhoti-kurta, they prefer the hassle-free kurta-pajama and other outfits. BJD Lok Sabha MP Prasanna Patsani, however, is a different league – he is always seen clad in saffron.
Mishra says he has been wearing dhoti-kurta not after he joined politics but since his school days. “It’s not that I only wear dhoti-kurta. I also wear suits on occasions. However, I feel more comfortable in dhoti,” Mishra, who is also a senior lawyer, said.
He feels that the choice of dhoti is for him a matter of habit. “During my childhood days I remember the children of our village Chhatamakhana, 9 km off Bolangir, did not wear trousers. We used to wear a short dhoti kind of drape as there were no pants. I used to wear dhoti during my school days as there was no dress code back then. During my Intermediate in Science (I Sc) from Vikram Deb College in Jeypore in 1956, I started wearing suits and trousers alongside dhoti.”
Asked whether dhoti-kurta reflects the nationalistic spirit of politicians, the leader of Opposition replied that choice of attire does not reflect one’s patriotism. Politicians are committed to serving the nation, he said.
Legislators and parliamentarians from Odisha stick to simplicity in sartorial choices. However, many of them appear to have ditched dhoti-kurta with time and prefer kurta-pajama – preferably white – as well as formal shirts, denims as well as suits while attending party sessions or public rallies. The ubiquitous saree, however, still remains the unofficial dress code of female politicians. White rules the roost in a politician’s wardrobe as it conveys purity and simplicity.
Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Deb, who is often seen in pants and half-sleeve shirts, feels politicos’ choice of attires reflects generation gap. “The dhoti-kurta had once seized the political imagination of a generation. Changing attires reflect the mindset of a new generation of politicians,” he said.
Sudarsan Maharana, OP