PM Modi is taking the lead in challenging Naveen Patnaik-led BJD and bringing the party back on the winning track.
BHUBANESWAR: Unmoved by the reversals it faced in the Assembly elections held recently in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is steadily building up its strength in Odisha to unseat the 19-year-old BJD government headed by Naveen Patnaik.
This time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking the lead as the victory in Odisha, the BJP strategists feel, would bring the party back on the winning track, especially in provincial elections.
The PM, who visited the state on December 24, appears to be bent on winning the Odisha Assembly elections which will be held with the Lok Sabha polls in May.
On Saturday the PM addressed a mega public meeting at Baripada and later this month he will be visting Bolangir, making it clear that Odisha is the epicentre of the saffron party’s plan to expand in the east to compensate the possible losses in the north and central India during Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
As grapevine has it, the BJP is contemplating to field PM Narendra Modi from Puri Lok Sabha seat. If Mr Modi contests from Puri, it will be a great advantage for the party. In fact in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, though the party managed to win only one of the 21 seats in state, it finished second in six constituencies.
Emboldened by the overwhelming success of the party in 2017 three-tier zila parishad polls in which it zoomed past the Congress, then principal Opposition in the state, the BJP has already spread its network across the state. It has constituted core groups in 36,000 booths.
Sources said all the Sangh Parivar-affiliated wings, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, have fanned out their activists in every nook and corner of the state to work for the party. Led by dedicated whole-timers, the Sangh Parivar members have even ventured into areas where they did not have much presence until the recent past.
In Rayagada and Koraput, two major southern Odisha districts which were strongholds of the Congress till 2000, the Sangha Parivar activists are busy in preparing the ground for the prospective BJP candidates.
“Until 2000, Koraput and Rayagada were Congress bastions. The ruling BJD established its suzerainty over these two districts in 2000 and its dominance in these areas still continues. But, the situation at the grassroots is fast changing. The Sangh Parivar activists are working wholeheartedly to prepare grounds for the prospective BJP nominees. Such organised efforts by the activists would make a big difference in the coming Lok Sabha polls,” said Dr R.K. Khatua, a renowned doctor of Koraput.
Dr Khatua, a strong admirer of chief minister Naveen Patnaik and the ruling BJD, says the regional party has to toil hard to maintain its position in Koraput and Rayagada districts this time “as the battle is going to be tough because of the organised efforts of the BJP.”
The Modi government, ever since it came to power at the Centre in 2014, has given more than `2 lakh crore to the state and made significant contributions to the development of national highways, railways and industrial development. Alongside highlighting all these contributions, the PM during his recent visit to the state, harped on the large-scale corruption “patronised” by the ruling BJD.
Union minister petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is pioneering the BJP’s campaign in Odisha, has categorically announced that his party would take on the BJD on corruption issues.
“Corruption is a major issue in Odisha. May it be mining scam or chit fund scam, or for that matter a host of other scams such as land scam and MGNREGS scam that occurred during the present BJD regime, all these irregularities have held back the state growth. Add to this, the rising number of unemployment youths, farm distress, migration of rural population to other states in search of jobs and increase in the number of atrocities against women and government’s inaction to punish the culprits are going to be raised in the elections,” said Mr Pradhan.
Claiming that people of Odisha had made up their mind to change the Naveen Patnaik government this time, the Union minister said BJP was the ultimate choice of the people as the Congress was a spent force in the state politics.
The BJP plans to get at least 1.4 crore votes in the coming polls. As per the 2014 voters’ list, Odisha has 2.63 crore votes. Final voters’ list will be published on January 21.