‘Politics is the Best Possible Medium of Social Service’
It was your maiden outing in the elections and you have come out with flying colours. What is the feeling like?
I am happy and grateful to our chief minister and supreme leader, Naveen Babu. He blessed me with the party ticket. I am equally beholden to the people of Bhubaneswar (north) constituency for voting overwhelmingly for me. The blessings of my parents and elders also played a role in my success.
You have come into politics by accident or by design?
I have been in politics for last 20 years. Of course, I was not in the limelight and preferred to dedicate myself to party work without seeking any attention. I have been part of BJD youth wing and student wing, contributing meaningfully to the party. So politics is not new to me and I know I will remain in politics all my life.
What drew you to politics?
I have always wanted to serve the people of my state and politics offers a unique opportunity to this. It is the best possible medium of social service as it provides a huge platform to anyone willing to serve the people. The canvas here is bigger than any other profession can offer.
What factors contributed to your victory in your very first electoral outing?
The only factor was Naveen Babu, his sparkling image as a leader and his acceptability among people. For all BJD candidates he was the star campaigner and the biggest hope. Without his blessings I would never have won. His greatness as a leader is evident from the fact that he successfully bucked the Modi wave in Odisha. It worked all over the country but in Odisha it was Naveen magic that worked. We scored a resounding victory in the assembly and Naveen Babu became chief minister of the state for a record fifth term. His record in the state is unmatched and he is today counted among the most successful chief ministers of the country.
What are the three qualities of chief minister Naveen Patnaik that you like most?
His spirit of selfless service to the people stands out and makes him such a popular leader. In his case his work speaks as he believes in the dictum, “work more, talk less.” His honesty and integrity have endeared him to the people of the state. These are his exemplary qualities which anyone aspiring to be successful in public life should emulate.
Who do you look up to in politics for inspiration?
Without doubt it is Naveen Babu. He has always been an inspiration. I have already mentioned his outstanding qualities which should be followed by people wanting to be successful in public life. Naveen Babu is not just my inspiration he is an inspiration for an entire generation of young leaders like me. The more I look at his work the more inspired I feel.
What are the typical problems of your constituency and how do you propose to address them?
My constituency has around three lakh voters, both urban and rural. The rural segment consists of five panchayats where drinking water is a major problem which I will try my best to solve. Then there are some very old temples in the area that need renovation and I have decided to pay attention to this. In the urban segment of the constituency, rehabilitation of slum dwellers is a major issue. The government is taking care of this with work under progress . But I will try my best to expedite the process of their rehabilitation. Rehabilitation of footpath vendors is also an issue that I will look into seriously. Finally, we need to remove the traffic bottlenecks on the road from Jaydev Vihar to Nandankanan.
Why did you choose to represent a regional party instead of a national party?
I think a regional party can reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people of a state much better than a national party. Unlike a national party, which has to take into account its interests at the national level and in other parts of the country, a regional outfit can fight dedicatedly for the people it represents without bothering about the consequences. The BJD, in my opinion, is the best thing to have happened to Odisha. It is the most successful regional party in the history of the state. I have been with the party right since its inception and have always treated Naveen Babu as my leader and inspiration. I have always worked as a disciplined soldier of the party and will continue to do so.
The BJD government has launched a number of welfare schemes which are primarily responsible for the party’s electoral success. But opposition calls these schemes populist. During the election campaign it said that chief minister Naveen Patnaik was enacting populist stunts. How do you respond to this allegation?
These are baseless allegations. Had these schemes been populist stunts Naveen Babu would not be winning elections with such regularity. The fact that people have made him chief minister for the fifth time in a row proves that they have endorsed these schemes. They are pro-people and pro-poor schemes aimed at the welfare of all sections.
Among these schemes which one do you think have been the most effective as far as poverty reduction is concerned?
There are so many good schemes aimed at poverty alleviation that it is difficult to choose among them. In my opinion they are all excellent schemes and have been immensely successful.
As an MLA what will be your priorities?
My sole priority is serving the people of Bhubaneswar (north), my constituency. Since they have reposed their faith in me it is my responsibility to justify their faith. They will always be my priority.
All elections are fought on issues. What were the major campaign issues for you?
Our leader, chief minister, Naveen Patnaik was the star campaigner of the party. Entire focus was upon him. With him there we faced no competition. Only Naveen factor worked in the election and it was because of him that I won the election with such a comfortable margin. The only issue was the sterling performance of our government which received a big thumbs up from the people. They voted overwhelmingly for us.
You represent one of the most prestigious constituencies of Bhubaneswar which was recently battered by cyclone Fani that left behind a trail of destruction. The loss of greenery has been particularly huge. How do you propose to restore the lost greenery of the state capital, particularly in your constituency?
The day cyclone hit the state and the capital city, I was moving around in my constituency. I was interacting with people and trying to help them out. The government also came to their rescue and provided relief to the affected people. We will do whatever is needed to ensure that our state capital becomes as beautiful as it was before the cyclone took its toll.
Chief minister had said before the election that Mahanadi water dispute and the demand for special category state status to Odisha will be the major campaign issues for his party. Do you think injustice has been done to Odisha as far as Mahanadi issue is concerned? And what is your take on the special category status demand?
Yes, injustice has been done to Odisha on Mahanadi which is the lifeline of people in around 15 districts of the state. The Chhattisgarh government has unilaterally constructed dams and barrages in the upstream of the river, thus checking the flow of Mahanadi water on the Odisha side. We are already suffering because of this. The issue needs immediate attention and Odisha is fully justified in fighting for its rights on the river. The demand for special state category status to Odisha is similarly crucial to the development of the state. It is a justified demand that should be conceded by the Centre.
What in your opinion should be the ideal of a regional party?
A regional party should always strive to safeguard the interests of the people it represents. Our chief minister, who leads BJD, the most successful regional party in the history of the state, has repeatedly said that interest of Odisha is uppermost in his mind. That is the ideal stand.