New Delhi: Pratap Sarangi, a fierce orator in both Sanskrit and Odia, was often referred to as the real “aam aadmi" because of his simple lifestyle. On Thursday, he took oath as a minister in the Narendra Modi government.

Sarangi, a first time parliamentarian from Balasore in Odisha, defeated Biju Janata Dal (BJD) strongman Rabindra Kumar Jena. His victory has, in a sense, facilitated the entry of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into coastal Odisha, a BJD stronghold. Sarangi also represents rural India in the council of ministers.

Sarangi, who is fondly called Nana, stands out for two key personality traits—his simple lifestyle and easy accessibility. Sarangi either used his cycle, or hired an autorickshaw, when he toured the constituency to seek votes for himself and the party, even as his ‘crorepati’ rivals in the BJD and the Congress were moving around in luxury vehicles, say local residents of Balasore.

Nana has been a two-time MLA from the Nilagiri assembly segment in Balasore as an independent candidate. In 2014, he contested from the Balasore Lok Sabha seat, but lost to the BJD’s Jena, an industrialist, by more than 142,000 votes. This time, he defeated Jena by around 13,000 votes.

Nana is a national executive member of the BJP and a core committee member of the party’s Odisha unit.

“A simple, hardworking man, reaching out to people comes easily to him. A true social worker, he uses his earnings for the education of poor children rather than creating assets for himself," said Harekrushna Behera, a BJP worker in Bhubaneswar.

Nana believes that, as a villager, simplicity comes to him naturally and he does not make an effort to change that. After his victory in the Lok Sabha elections, he told mediapersons that a key priority for him will be better access to drinking water.

In recent television interviews, he denied that he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are friends for decades as was touted by some in the social media, but called Modi an inspiration.

A graduate from Fakir Mohan College in Balasore, Sarangi, 64, wanted to join the Ramkrishna Math as a monk, but was encouraged by peers to take up social work. Associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevek Sangh, Nana worked to educate poor children in the tribal belts of Odisha.