‘I’M LEARNING EVERY DAY’
This was your first election and you tasted victory in your very first outing. And now you are being hailed as the youngest Lok Sabha MP ever. How does it all feel?
I am feeling both happy and proud. Everyone is not fortunate like me to achieve so much within such a short span of time. God has definitely been kind to me.
You are a first-timer. I presume you came into politics without any previous experience. So how easy or difficult was the campaign for you and how did you go about it?
Campaigning for the elections was a different experience altogether. But it was a good experience. I remember being nervous on the first day. I was apprehensive about the response of the people. I didn’t know whether they would accept me or not. But when I interacted with them everything changed. The image of our chief minister Naveen Patnaik and our party was so good among people that they embraced me. This built up my confidence. I saw that people were extremely receptive to a young leader like me.
What was the feeling of entering the portals of parliament for the first time like? Were you nervous?
It was a great feeling, slightly overwhelming. It was the first time I was entering this great temple of democracy. I felt both excited and proud. I remember my heart beat going up. I will remember that moment forever.
How are your equations with your fellow party MPs who are all your seniors. Are they helpful? Do they guide you?
I have an excellent rapport with my seniors who are all extremely nice people. They are all very cooperative and helpful. I hope it continues this way.
Yours is a tribal-dominated constituency. What are its typical problems and how do you propose to solve them?
Frankly, I am yet to see the whole of the constituency. Twelve to 15 days was not enough though I tried my best to cover almost all the areas. There is a lot that is yet to be done. For example, in one of the villages I saw people without electricity. Work to energise the village is still going on. People also need education. I think this should be a priority area. We need steel plants and a better railway network. Drinking water facilities also need to be improved. So there is a lot of work that is yet to be done.
Chief ministerNaveen Patnaik had a meeting with the newly elected MPs of Biju Janata Dal. Did he impart any tips to the MPs during the meeting?
The chief minister is such an icon. He has now taken up the reins of the state for the fifth time. That speaks volumes for his popularity and efficiency. I am new to him but he is certainly not new to me. I have been watching and admiring his work for a long time. The meeting was formal where he wished us all luck and advised us to work hard for the development of the state.
Do you look up to the chief minister as an inspiration? What are his three qualities that you like most?
He is definitely an inspiration, not just for me but for an entire generation of people. The fact that he has been ruling the state for such a long time shows that he rules the hearts of the people. They admire his work and his attitude. The best thing that I like about him is his simplicity. It is clear that he believes in the dictum of simple living and high thinking. He conducts himself in a very graceful manner. He believes in working more and talking less. Equally important is the fact that he is a man of his word. If he makes a commitment, he keeps it. I also like his special commitment to the cause of women, his campaign for 33 percent reservation to women in state assemblies and parliament. Remember he is a man who walks the talk. See my case, for instance: he took a big risk by fielding me as his party’s Lok Sabha candidate. But he is committed to bringing women up.
The chief minister has been demanding special category status for the state for a long time. Do you think this demand is justified?
This is an important demand that should be discussed at all possible forums. Our chief minister, being a seasoned politician, has a vision of the state. If he is raising this demand it means it is important. Odisha definitely needs this status in order to move further on the path of development. In fact, it would accelerate the process of our growth.
Do you have a political background? How did you decide to join politics?
No, I don’t have any political background. Only my maternal grandfather, late Harihar Soren was a Lok Sabha MP. No one else in my family has been in politics. I was approached through my uncle. I think BJD leaders must have seen some potential in me.
How did you feel when the offer was made to you. Were you excited or nervous?
The offer came on April 1. I thought someone was trying to play a prank on me because it was Apri Fool’s Day . But then I realized it was serious. I had an interest in politics and public life because it offers the right kind of platform to serve the people. Hence I accepted the offer. This was an opportunity not to be missed.
The BJD is a regional party which is supposed to fight for the cause of Odisha. You are one of its MPs. How do you propose to fight for the interests of the state?
I am new to politics and also new in the party. But I am learning every day and have a keen desire to learn. I know our chief minister has a vision for the state. I think the best way for me to serve the state would be to carry out honestly and sincerely whatever responsibility the party assigns me. I am determined to do that.
What factors in your opinion were responsible for your victory in the election?
I think the most important factor was the sparkling public image of our chief minister who is the darling of the people. I am fortunate that he picked me to contest the seat, that he thought me worthy of being made the BJD candidate from Keonjhar. I am also grateful to the people of my constituency for accepting me and blessing me.
The BJD government has launched a number of welfare programmes for the people of the state. Almost all these programmes are aimed at improving the lot of the poor. But the opposition somehow does not seem convinced. The opposition has described these schemes as populist and also called them political stunts.
Had these schemes being aimed only at grabbing votes they would have been launched only at the election time. But that is not the case. The government has been launching schemes for the poor ever since it came to power for the first time in the state. The fact that people have been voting for BJD overwhelming in election after election is irrefutable proof that these schemes have improved the lot of poor. They have made a positive change in the life of the masses who have blessed our party. The allegation of the opposition, thus, is politically motivated.
Which schemes of the government do you like most?
Almost all the schemes of the government are laudable. But I am particularly impressed by the initiative to form self-help groups (SHGs) which has provided women with the golden opportunity to become self-reliant. Our chief minister is committed to the development of all sections of the society but he is particularly keen to improve the condition of women. He has taken several initiatives in this regard.
What can be done to improve the lot of tribal people in Odisha?
I think it is important to raise their awareness level which can be best done through the spread of education among them.