Politics in India bears a indelible mark of the British rule over the Indian sub-continent. This is why the subjects (people) who vote the government into power are most often the ones deprived of any government benefits and aids. This was the opening remark of Mr. Lado Kishore Swain, Honorable Member of the Parliament from the Aska constituency, Orissa. We ask him about his views on politics and he goes on to tell us about his accidental foray into politics. Although an unemployed graduate in the early 70s (he had quit his job as a head-master in the neighbouring village), he was a popular figure in his native village. At the death of his son as he stood dejected, the villagers came together and urged him to file his nomination for the post of the Sarpanch. Even as a grieving father, he could not refuse to serve his people. He admits to having no time to even think, whether he wanted to be a Sarpanch or not; he just signed the documents. Thereon he embarked onto a political career during which he held almost all the positions of leaderships of various electorate offices of Panchayat, Zilla, District and now the Parliamentary constituency.
He reminisces about his upbringing in his mother’s household.
He lost his father very early and subsequently faced innumerable difficulties while growing up. His life was that of hardship as his family depended on agriculture primarily for subsistence. He says that before he actually came into politics, he hated politics. He further adds that he had to learn to behave as a politician. He comes from a family of farmers and as a student he had never even thought about being a politician. As a student of political science, he says that the two things he learnt were-
political truth is distinct from the legal truth and the legal truth is not the political truth
to be a good politician, one must have a great heart.
We then ask him, how has his journey from being a Sarpanch to a Member of the Parliament impacted his ways of working. He tells us that initially the Panchayats did not receive much funding from the government. This meant that a politician also had to be good leader and lead the people efficiently. He told us about the various projects that were taken up by the people of the villages and how they were seen to completion by the villagers themselves. They built roads, primary schools and other civic amenities by collaborating amongst themselves. This he says helped him build long lasting relationships with his fellowmen, a trait he has imbibed as a part of his personality.
He tells us that before fighting his first Legislative elections, he did not even know that the party gave the candidates money for expenditure during the campaigns. He maintains a very cordial relations with his fellow MLAs till date. His candidature for MP was proposed by the local MLAs to the party leadership. He was given a ticket because of the popularity he enjoyed among the people in his constituency. Such is his popularity in his constituency that he won the elections by an overwhelming margin of over 3 lakh and 30 thousand votes, higher than the Chief Minister himself who is the sitting MLA from the same electorate of the Legislative Assembly.
He then talks about the various challenges in his constituency which include the need for agrarian reforms, alleviating the issue of poor rail and road connectivity, health and educational reforms and other civic amenities.
He further says that politicians often forget the people who voted them to power after coming to Delhi which he feels is dangerous. In the present system of politics, money has become a mighty power. The Gram Sabhas are done only on paper and though in theory every single villager is supposed to be involved in the decision making process, this is far from the actual truth. He feels that Lok Sabha elections is where masses vote in unison and elect their representatives. He hopes that the nation would change and that citizens would feel more included in the matters of governance. He adds that a citizen should also think of his or her civic duties and not only ask for aid from the government.
Mr Swain with the authors
Having been involved in state politics for a long time, he has worked with Biju Patnaik closely and he feels that he was a great leader. He says that he was not biased towards a few and actually loved anyone who served the cause of the state of Odisha. Also, Biju Patnaik is more popular posthumously than Naveen Patnaik who is alive. On the status of the prospects of BJD, he said that because it is a regional party, MLAs are more powerful than the MPs as they are more critical to the success of the party and its concurrent rule in the state. For politicians who venture into politics to take the family tradition ahead, they lack political sense and have no idea of political suffering. The task of an MP is not just putting a signature on the document but much more. However there are genuine people who fight for the cause of development.
His message to the youth is that politics is like a tranquilizer and is often hazardous to health, he adds frivolously. But in his view, every genuine Indian should take an interest in politics. Though there has been a sea of change, he feels that the problem of corruption still persists and is pervasive in our society. He feels that without corruption, ours can be a very prosperous nation.He concludes the interview by saying that Humanism is the best -ism and the best teacher as well.
-Nawal Agrawal, Soni Jha and Nymphea Noronha Young India Fellowship, batch of 2014-15