Rajya Sabha MP Anubhav Mohanty has been fielded by the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha’s Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituency against Baijayant Jay Panda, who defected from the party to the BJP last month. Mohanty, a popular actor in the state, says the goodwill of Chief Minister and party chief Naveen Patnaik among the poor and in rural areas will be his biggest asset in the elections.
You have been fielded against a strong contender of the BJP in a constituency that has a history of supporting the BJD. How do you take it?
I have been connected to the people in some way or another. People here have been loving me and showering their blessings since long. I have been going to them and I have been getting so much love and affection. When I walk down the street, the women — mothers and sisters — talk to me affectionately. That makes me feel more confident.
Do you think the electoral fight against Panda will be tough?
Why do people think that I cannot take him on? Odisha is a place where people have defied wrong activities from the very beginning. We have a history and we are always proud of it. Somebody who has lied and cheated the people will definitely be rejected by the people. Panda is talking about infrastructure — how much has he worked to improve it here? How many jobs has he created? All he did was collect money… In fact, if you take stock of what he has done for himself and what he has done for the constituency, the former will be more. I will not do that.
Panda left the BJD to join the BJP. Do you think it is a battle of ideologies now?
Not just a battle of ideologies, it’s a battle of values and principles. Its a battle for development and transparency… Kendrapara has an emotional connect with the BJD and is a strong supporter of Biju babu (former CM Biju Patnaik). People here love Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik unconditionally and it has been a big factor in the elections. My opponent here is a person who has used Biju babu’s name for winning elections. After being a Rajya Sabha MP and Lok Sabha MP for multiple terms, he is saying he always wanted to join the BJP. People will see it.
The BJP’s campaigning here is intense and PM Narendra Modi’s name seems to be resonating. How are you countering it?
We have seen the Modi government for five years. How many central government jobs has he created for the people of Odisha? Why is the Mahanadi water dispute still unresolved? Why couldn’t he resolve it when there was a BJP government in Chhattisgarh? Today he says that when you have a double engine — a BJP government in the state and at the Centre — things will work out for Odisha. You had a double engine in Chhattisgarh… Why did Chhattisgarh build a dam without Odisha’s consent? The Prime Minister is good at delivering dialogues. I respect him as an elder, but he must walk the talk… I have to work for people to be a good MP. He has made many promises but did not keep any of them. Not even the one that he would protect the nation from terrorism. What happened in Pulwama was his failure. People of Odisha are not fools.
What have you done for the people of Odisha?
As a Rajya Sabha member, I have always spoken for the people of Odisha. You can see in the records how many times I have taken up the issues faced by people with the central government. I never dishonour peoples’ trust in me.
The BJD has not opposed the BJP in the last five years.
Like our leader (Naveen Patnaik) said, no party is going to get a full majority at the Centre. So when that happens, the BJD will play a vital role. If we get all the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the demands of Odisha and the rights of the people can be easily taken forward.
You played the role of Biju Patnaik in a movie that was recently released. What message did you try to send out through such a movie on the eve of elections?
In the movie, I am a thief who goes to Biju babu’s house to steal. I steal his glasses and whenever I wear them, I start seeing things through his eyes. That makes me a changed man. The movie sends a positive message.