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‘I want to promote art & culture’

Ace sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra is in news for having thrown his hat into the Rajya Sabha ring. Subhashish Mohanty speaks to him on his decision to contest for the Upper House as an Independent

You could have served the country in many other ways. Why choose Rajya Sabha?

My sole aim is to popularise the art and sculpture of Odisha. My close relatives tell me that Rajya Sabha will give me a bigger platform to raise issues such as my ambition to replicate the Sun Temple in Konark. The Sun Temple is not only the pride of Odisha, but also the entire country. The project would require a lot of money and support.

Questions are being asked why the BJD did not pick you as its official candidate — which would have made your victory a certainty. Being an Independent contesting the fourth seat, you are being haunted by uncertainty. Are you worried?

I don’t know all about the intricacies of voting system in the Rajya Sabha. I hope all the political parties support my candidature as I want to go to the Rajya Sabha to promote art and culture.

But why did you meet chief minister Naveen Patnaik before consulting leaders of other political parties?

Before meeting Naveen Babu, I had tried to meet Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jaydev Jena. I had even gone to his house but could not meet him. I would certainly try to meet him once again to seek his party’s support. I have also met BJP leaders.

If you don’t get the required support, will you quite the race?

I am 70. At this age, I have nothing to lose. Two years ago, I had never thought of going to Rajya Sabha. It’s all happening with the wish of Lord Jagannath. If He wants that I should be humiliated, I have nothing to worry.

There is a provision that the President can nominate 12 members to the 250-member Upper House. Will you be happy if you are nominated under this category?

That is not in my hands. Whatever I am today is because of the blessings of Lord Jagannath. If He desires, He will find a way for me.

There is also a talk that you have the backing of Gandhi family as you had already built a rapport with them. Is there any substance to it?

There is no basis to it. I had built the Rajiv Gandhi Samadhi and also did some work for the Parliament. I had been chosen for this entirely on the basis of my quality as a sculptor.

You must be aware that to win as an Independent candidate, one has to win over MLAs from various camps by spending huge amount of money. Where will you get so much money?

I don’t have money to pay anyone. Whatever, I earned is just enough to keep me going. I hope, the MLAs will understand that and vote for me.