Pradeep Singh

Bhubaneswar/Rayagada: Poor but determined! When major political parties in Odisha went full throttle during the 2019 polls, one of the poorest and that too an independent candidate, Makarand Muduli upended equations by thrashing some heavyweights in the Rayagada Assembly constituency of Odisha.

Muduli jumped into the fray with the declared total assets of Rs 15,000 only, but with his hard work he managed to win the faith of people and it helped him defeat a former minister of the ruling party. He defeated BJD's Lal Bihari Himirika to win the Rayagada Assembly seat by over 4,500 votes.

Backed by loyalists and a strong following among tribal communities, Muduli conducted door-to-door campaigning to reach out to voters while his counterparts in the BJD, BJP and Congress relied heavily on their star campaigners.

"I contested the elections on the money collected by people. They collected money for my campaign... Their support helped me win the seat. My victory has opened a new path in this democratic festival," said Muduli.

Muduli is loved by people for his humble and down-to-earth nature and is also tagged as 'people's leader' by locals. "I had been praying for his (Makarand Muduli) victory and God listened to my prayers. After 70 years, someone from our tribe has been elected and it will help us raise our voice in the State Assembly," said a resident of Rayagada, Prabhati Jhodia.

Muduli had unsuccessfully contested from Rayagada Assembly constituency on a Congress ticket in 2014. He had lost the seat to then BJD candidate Lal Bihari Himirika. However, during the 2019 polls when Muduli was denied ticket due to some issues with his caste certificate, he decided to enter the fray as an Independent candidate and surprisingly, thwarted ambitions of the biggies from the constituency.

Muduli had been a student leader but he took the path to active politics only in 2000. He unsuccessfully contested from Laxmipur Assembly seat in Koraput district in 2000 and 2004 general elections on Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket. Later, he joined Congress in 2014 and contested from Rayagada Assembly constituency against Himirika.