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Makaranda Muduli, 46, withstood both the ‘Naveen’ and ‘Modi’ waves to end up becoming the lone Independent to enter the Odisha Assembly.The grassroots-level tribal social worker defeated fancied opponents to win the Rayagada Assembly seat. He was pitted against former State Minister Lal Bihari Himirika of the Biju Janata Dal, Basant Ulaka of the BJP and Apalswami Kadraka of the Congress. Securing 52,752 votes, Mr. Muduli defeated his nearest BJD rival by a margin of 4,839 votes.Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had campaigned for the BJD candidate, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had sought votes for the BJP, but Mr. Muduli’s deep personal connections forged over years of social work helped him overcome the odds.The new Rayagada MLA, according to the affidavit filed by him during nomination, has assets worth only ₹15,000. He owns no agricultural land or a two-wheeler. He claims even the clothes he wears have been bought by friends and well-wishers.A postgraduate and law degree holder, Mr. Muduli says his electoral campaign was financed by former classmates and supporters and paled in comparison to the resources deployed by candidates of the major political parties. Even his borrowed motorcycle’s fuel expenses were borne by his supporters, he says, and villagers themselves put up posters and banners for him.No political noviceMr. Muduli, however, is no political novice. He had unsuccessfully contested the Laxmipur Assembly seat on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket in 2004. In 2008 he joined the Congress and contested the 2014 Assembly election from Rayagada, but lost by a narrow margin. This time, when he was denied the Congress ticket, his supporters urged him to contest as an Independent and promised to take charge of his campaign. Not for nothing does Mr. Muduli call himself the “people’s candidate”.Mr. Muduli’s priority as MLA is to push for Scheduled Tribe status for the Jhodia community of Rayagada district.