16 Mar 2020



Breaking the Biju Janata Dal’s hold on Badasahi, one of the nine assembly constituencies in the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district, was not easy.  But Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) relied on the young and dynamic Sanatana Bijuli to conquer the constituency. A keen social worker who has always been close to the people, he has a sizeable following among all sections of the electorate, especially the youth. Committed to the idea of nation-building, he went all out to help people during the super-cyclone of 1999 which had left behind a trail of death and devastation along the Odisha coast. He also worked selflessly to help the people affected by cyclone Phailin in Baripada. Liked by all sections of people, the leader spoke to Ashutosh Mishra on a wide range of issues including the future of BJP in Odisha

Q. You have been working among the people of the constituency for quite some time. But the feeling of becoming a first-time MLA must be different. What is it like?

A. When I decided to join politics, I knew that one day I will get the party ticket to contest and also win the seat. So, my victory did not come as a surprise to me. And I will certainly not let it go to my head. However, with this win comes the responsibility of fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people of my constituency. I know they have expectations from me and I should be able to come up to them. I will try to do my best to keep my promises. I will never let them down. I will ensure that they vote for me once again in the next election.


Q. This time, the BJP won six out of the nine assembly seats in Mayurbhanj district which is a record of sorts. What factors helped the party achieve this splendid feat? 

A. The ruling BJD’s image in the district had taken a knock because of the large-scale corruption that party leaders had done in the district. There were several instances of corruption, which disillusioned the people who lost faith in the BJD and decided to put their trust in the BJP. Besides, our party has been working consistently in Mayurbhanj to win the trust of the people. Our organization in the district is very strong right up to the grassroots level. When we won 49 out of 56 zila parishad seats in the district in 2017 panchayat elections, it became clear that we were on the upswing. We knew right then that the BJP will also sweep the assembly seats in the district. We are going to grow further in Mayurbhanj and also other parts of the state. 


Q. You said you were confident about winning the seat. What made you so confident?

A. I have been working among the people of the area for a long time. My social work began much before a decision was taken by the BJP leadership to give me the ticket. It was the love and affection of people that gave me the confidence to step into politics and then the electoral arena with conviction. I knew that the people were with me and that they appreciated my work.  


Q. The BJP’s assembly tally has gone up to 23 from 10 in 2014 and it has emerged as the main opposition party in the state dislodging Congress from that position. But the party could nowhere come near the target of 120 assembly seats set by former BJP president Amit Shah. Why?  

A. See, no one can deny BJP’s growth in the state. The party is on the upswing. We would have won many more seats in the last election had Congress not surrendered to the BJD on 50 to 60 seats. The BJD took advantage of this and we lost 30 to 40 assembly seats by small margins. Had Congress not collapsed in this manner BJP would have formed government in the state. You look at the case of my constituency. Congress had got 36,000 votes here in 2014 but in the last election it got only 12,000 votes.


Q. What in your opinion are the reasons for the decline of Congress?

A. Congress is on the death bed. Soon the time will come when people will read about the party only in history books. One of the most important reasons for its decline is the kind of corruption that its leaders indulged in. The party is also a victim of terrible infighting. The BJD, too, will split once Naveen Patnaik is not there to hold the party together.


Q. Yours is primarily a rural constituency. What kinds of problems does it face?

A. During the last 20 years of BJD rule, nothing significant happened in the constituency in terms of development. Problems relating to water, electricity, health and irrigation remain. During the short period since my election, I have tried to address some of these problems – like I got a medicine specialist posted in the area. I have been trying hard to ensure that teachers come to schools regularly and take classes on time. I have also been raising questions relating to my constituency in the state assembly.


Q. The BJD government claims to have launched a large number of welfare schemes that are supposedly benefitting the people. The party maintains that people have been voting for it consistently because of such measures. What’s your comment?

A. Whatever the BJD has done has been done with an eye to the votes. I don’t think the schemes have actually benefitted the people. Naveen Patnaik continues to win because luck has been favouring him. This government has been taking advantage of the Centre’s generosity and taking credit for things which are actually the gift of Modi government. It has even been projecting central schemes as its own. The truth is that the state is still backward with people migrating to states like Gujarat in search of jobs. The industrial scenario is bad and hundred per cent irrigation target is yet to be achieved in any of the panchayats. Liquor is flowing in the state with country liquor freely available in villages also.


Q. Mayurbhanj is a tribal-dominated district. What has the government done for the development of tribals?

A. The government has done precious little for them. It is using funds for schemes like Ama Gan Ama Vikas for party work. The target everywhere is getting votes in the elections. Even women SHG groups get money on the eve of elections so that their members vote for BJD.


Q. BJD has been trying hard to strengthen its organizational base. For this purpose, the party had recently organized a massive membership drive. Has the party actually become stronger in terms of cadres?

A. All this talk of the BJD’s organizational strength is bunkum. It is a party being run by bureaucrats. Major decisions are taken by important bureaucrats. The power of ministers has been eroded. The BJD is going to collapse like a house of cards after Naveen Patnaik. In 2024, BJP will form government in the state.


Q. Name the four qualities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that you like most.

A. He is a patriot who had the guts to carry out a surgical strike against Pakistan. He is a ‘vikas purush’ who believes in development and has a vision for India’s all-round development. He is someone who believes in work. He gave us the Gujarat model of development. He is presently the most respected Prime Minister in the world and India’s international image has grown because of him.


Q. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been demanding special category state status for Odisha for quite some time. He had also turned this into a major campaign issue in the last elections. Do you think the demand is justified?

A. There is no justification for this demand. As it is, Odisha has been getting generous financial assistance from the Centre. It got almost Rs.2,000 crore from Modi government for rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the wake of cyclone Fani. When it is getting so much from the Centre where is the justification for special category status demand?


Q. Odisha has also been demanding justice on Mahanadi and Polavaram, with both the issues having generated a lot of heat in the state in the past. Your comments?

A. Both are political issues. When the BJP was in power in Chhattisgarh, the Biju Janata Dal was raising the Mahanadi issue in a big way. But now with a Congress government coming to power in the neighbouring state, it is not being raised with the same vigour. The real target of BJD was BJP. Polavaram issue, too, is being raised for political gains.


Q. Has there been a positive change in Odisha’s image in the last 20 years?

A. I don’t think so. Corruption is rampant and cases of rape are increasing. Young girls in Kanyashrams are becoming pregnant. There is migration of labour and liquor is flowing in the state. What is the positive change, you tell me?  We have gone from bad to worse.

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