‘FOR ME WORK IS WORSHIP’
Souvic Biswal, all of 27 years, is perhaps the youngest among Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders to have been elected to the new state assembly. Son of former MLA Pravat Biswal, Souvic was a leading figure in the student politics of the state. But contesting for the assembly was a different ball game altogether. The young man, who passed this test with flying colours, is keen to carry forward his father’s legacy. Polite and down to earth, Souvic spoke exclusively to Ashutosh Mishra of India First about his future plans and what keeps him going:
You are so young and you have won the very first election you fought. What is the feeling like?
Winning always feels good. So it’s a nice feeling. But I am not going to get unnecessarily excited. I want to do my best for the people of Chowdwar-Cuttack who have showered so much love on me and elected me as their representative. I want to work for them the same way that my father worked. And I want to do this with the blessings of lord Jagannath, honourable chief minister Naveen Patnaik and, of course, my father.
You come from a political family. Your father has been an MLA. How do you propose to carry forward his legacy?
I am determined to follow in his footsteps and work for the people with the same kind of zeal. He used to work for the people right from morning till night without bothering about his own health. People were his priority and he spent so much time trying to solve their problems. I want to inherit the same trait and devote myself to the cause of people.
How was your experience during campaigning?
The kind of love and affection the people showered on me during campaign cannot be imagined. You had to see it to believe. It was like we were all part of one large family. Campaigning was a pleasure, a fantastic experience.
What is your purpose in joining politics? Did circumstances bring you into it or was it some other inspiration?
Yes, primarily circumstances brought me into politics. I was pained by the way country’s premier investigating agency harassed my father even though there was no concrete evidence against him. He was harassed because of political reasons. So I came in to politics. But now that I am here I would like to carry forward his legacy and work as a soldier of BJD under the guidance of honourable chief minister.
You have been elected as the representative of BJD which is a regional party which is expected to reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people of the state. How would you do that?
For me the guiding star is our chief minister who believes in hard work and shuns big talk. This is the reason people have showered so much love on him. His honesty and integrity are cited as examples. He is my ideal and I look upto him for inspiration.
Do you look up to the chief minister for inspiration? If yes why?
Our chief minister is an inspiration not only for me but for the entire generation that I represent. His hard work, his dedication and his commitment to improve the lot of people of Odisha are praiseworthy. His honesty and integrity are also qualities to be emulated.
Many people become an MLA with the hope of becoming a minister. Do you have such ambitions?
I have no such hopes or ambitions. For me work is worship. I hope to serve the people of my constituency and continue the good work of my father. I have seen the dedication with which he has been serving the people and want to follow him.
What were the major campaign issues for you this time?
There were no campaign issues for me. My entire campaign was focussed around the work my father has done in the constituency and the image of the chief minister. Since people of the area love both of them immensely they also showered their love on me. It is their love and their faith that I will prove to be as good as my father that has given me victory.
What is it in your opinion that Odisha lacks and that you would like the state to have?
Honourable chief minister has done almost everything for the state. He has ensured its all-round development. There are good roads, quality power, water supply and all other facilities. So from that point of view Odisha is fully developed and can compare with the best in the country. But since in everything there is always scope for development, we can strive to make things better here too.
What do you think is the reason for chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s success as a leader? What is it that makes him win five elections in a row?
His honesty, integrity and simplicity have been widely appreciated. They make his personality immensely appealing to the people. He believes in working more and talking less. In his case his work speaks. He has been working ceaselessly and selflessly for the people of the state. People know that he has no axe to grind, that he has done nothing for himself. So they have been voting for him overwhelmingly election after election. People talk of anti-incumbency but in his case it is pro-incumbency.
The state government has launched many pro-people schemes. It is said that Naveen Patnaik government has schemes that take care of people from cradle to the grave. Which of these schemes do you think have benefitted the people most?
All the schemes of Naveen Patnaik government have received the nod of the people and have benefitted the targeted groups. This is a welfare government. What is important is that these schemes have been implemented with a missionary zeal what with chief minister ensuring that their benefits reach all the people. He has ensured corruption-free implementation of schemes which is very important.
What are the typical problems of your constituency?
The only problems are that two major industries, OTM and Titagarh Paper Mill are lying closed but the matter being sub-judice nothing can be done about it. Otherwise 90 percent demands of the area have been met. This is the reason people have voted for me.
Mahanadi is crucial to Cuttack and it is also crucial to the life of people in 15 districts of Odisha. Odisha is locked in a dispute with neighbouring Chhattisgarh over the sharing of river’s water. State government has accused Chhattisgarh of building dams and barrages across the river on its side, thus obstructing the flow of the river on Odisha side? How fair is this allegation?
A big injustice has been done to our state in the case of Mahanadi with even the Centre siding with Chhatisgarh in the matter. The structures built by Chhattisgarh have been obstructing the flow of river’s water on our side. We are going to suffer because of this. Similarly we are going to be affected by the Polavaram project coming up in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Centre has been prejudiced against Odisha on these issues. The Centre has neglected Odisha even in other matters, reducing central assistance for the schemes being implemented in the state.
You were in student politics and now suddenly you find yourself becoming an MLA of the ruling party. What difference do you feel?
Student politics was entirely different from this. This is the real thing where we deal with the problems of the people on a day-to-day basis. We have to look after the needs of people and sort out their problems. Demands of people in a constituency are completely different from that of students in a college or university. Both have to be dealt in a different manner. Dealing with people successfully, making them happy by resolving their problems is the real test of a public representative.
The BJP, which is the principal political rival of BJD in the state, has increased its Lok Sabha tally to eight this time from just one in 2014. It is being said that BJP is growing in the state with its popularity on the increase. How correct is this perception?
There has been no real growth in BJP’s base in the state. The party has only taken advantage of Congress’s decline in Odisha. At many places Congress votes shifted to BJP but that does not mean any increase in its popularity. Had BJP really grown in the state it would have been reflected in the assembly elections as well. But BJD has scored a resounding victory in the assembly polls under the able and dynamic leadership of chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. The so-called Modi wave, which had an impact in other parts of the country, failed to dent BJD’s fortress in Odisha.