Fielding well-known educational entrepreneur and the founder of KIIT-KISS Achyuta Samanta from Kandhamal is no less than a mastertactic by Naveen Patnaik. The BJD Rajya Sabha member’s KISS has ensured education opportunities to thousands of tribal children from the district that has been ravaged by backwardness, Maoist influence and communal polarisation. Hoping for the goodwill generated by his works and the popularity of Naveen Patnaik to work in his favour, Achyuta speaks to Hemant Rout on the road ahead
You are from Cuttack district but the party parachuted you to Kandhamal. Being an outsider, how are you approaching voters?
I do not feel people in Kandhamal treat me as an outsider. I have dedicated my life for social service. My 30-year-long service has brought me closer to people from different strata of the society. Wherever I go, I get immense love and support from them. I am overwhelmed with the affection showered upon me by the peace-loving people of the constituency. The response has been great.
Your political career started a year ago and you are facing a veteran Kharabela Swain who is a three-time MP from BJP.
I don’t face any threat from him. I am seeking the mandate of the people and so is he. As a politician, my entry to the constituency was on February 10 when I attended a meeting with Chief Minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik. I was a co-observer of the party for the district and asked to focus on developmental works. I am grateful to the BJD supremo that he gave me the opportunity.
The party dropped sitting MP Pratyusha Rajeshwari Singh. You must be under pressure.
It was the decision of the party which did what it thought to be the best. I hope I will not let BJD down. I have been getting immense support from all seven Assembly segments under the seat. Pratyusha madam might have left the party, but personally she is good to me.
From an education entrepreneur to full-fledged politician, how do you describe the transition?
Not only education sector, but I also used to work for the society in toto. I have been with the people, for the people and by the people for the last three decades. Earlier, I was confined to an organisation but now I can serve people from across sections.
There is an under-current or wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. How do you compare the popularity of Naveen and Modi?
They cannot be compared. Both are popular in their respective areas. The CM is a household name in Odisha which is different from other States. No under-current or wave works here. The BJD led by Naveen Patnaik is far ahead of other parties. Kandhamal is one of the under-developed districts in Odisha. What are your plans for the constituency if voted to power? Be it education, health, infrastructure or industrialisation, my focus will be on overall development of the area. I am committed for a stronger, developed and a resilient Kandhamal.