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Tathagata Satpathy: MP who spoke his heart on cannabis legalisation, decriminalising Section 377 quits politics

Satpathy quit politics on the insistence of his 13-year-old son. However, he added that the decision had been on his mind for some time.

March 06, 2019 / 04:30 PM IST

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Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Member of Parliament (MP) Tathagata Satpathy announced his retirement from active politics on March 5 to focus on journalism, setting political circles and social media abuzz.

That the 63-year-old MP from Odisha, who represents Dhenkenal constituency, is a man who speaks his mind in the Lok Sabha, has been displayed on numerous occasions.

For instance, Satpathy made headlines when, during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit, he vouched for the legalisation of cannabis, going on to even admit that he has smoked it while in college.

"I have smoked (and unlike Bill Clinton have inhaled) cannabis many a times," Satpathy is reported to have replied. The senior BJD leader, who is the party's chief whip in Lok Sabha, reinitiated his demand in the Lower House, wheeling away from the official position of his party.

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"Cannabis is a drug that has been given a bad name, the alcohol lobby, peddling something far more dangerous, has managed to club cannabis with more dangerous narcotics," Satpathy had told The Hindu.

Before a Supreme Court of India (SC) verdict decriminalising homosexuality in September 2018, Satpathy was one of the few MPs who had batted for it. He had said that some socially relevant laws "need a re-look" and "repealing".

"I would give an example of something like Section 377, the law relating to a small section of society. But it has a relevance to a particular kind of people who are human beings, who have feelings like us, but their sexual needs are different from a lot of people we know," Satpathy had said. He is also against the ban on pornography, reasoning that with changing times, laws should also change in order to change the societal outlook.

The son of former Odisha Chief Minister Nandini Satpathy, Tathagata entered politics during the 1980s, but tasted his first electoral success as a legislator in 1990. Satpathy had then contested on Janata Dal ticket, led by his current boss, Naveen Patnaik's father Biju Patnaik.

The MP later jumped to Odisha Gana Parishad (OGP) before switching back to the BJD during the 2004 general elections. He is the owner and Editor of Odiya daily Dharitri and English daily Orissa Post and had spoken in favour of net neutrality and the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Satpathy has continued to remain in news for his comments. During the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Hyderabad University row, where leaders from both the spectrum were involved in mud-slinging, Satpathy's speech on the issue was praised by many as balanced.

"I am heartbroken to say that the youth of the country does not deserve us. We are the most undeserving set of people to be in this House today," the BJD leader had said in Lok Sabha, underlining a need to find solutions to the problems and keep the issue out of politics.

The MP, who is a member of Standing Committee on Coal and Steel, has 92 percent attendance in the lower house, according to PRS Legislative Research data and has participated in debates on Aadhaar Bill, Triple Talaq Bill and a discussion on sustainable development goals.

He quit politics on the insistence of his 13-year-old son, according to a report by Hindustan Times. He added that the decision had been on his mind for some time.
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