Ready to Turn the Heat
As the ruling BJD faces strong anti-incumbency, the BJP has built a strong organisational base in Odisha and is ready to turn the heat in the upcoming assembly and parliamentary polls
Dr Samanwaya Nanda Bhubneshwar
Delhi’s political circles are abuzz about BJP’s chances in two eastern states – West Bengal and Odisha. Both these states have similar situations in the current political scenario like the similarity between the languages of two states—Odia and Bengali. Both the states are ruled by a regional party and controlled by one man show. In both the states, Congress is not in the picture to give a fight to the ruling party.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launching projects worth over Rs 4,500 crore in Baripada 
Odisha has 147 assembly seats and 74 is the number required to form the Government. In the last assembly election in 2014, the BJD had won 117 seats, the Congress 16 and the BJP 10. And in the Lok Sabha polls, the BJD had won 20 out of 21 seats. The BJP won only 1 seat. The Modi wave that swept the 2014 elections in favour of BJP in almost all over the country was clearly missing in Odisha. Then what explains this sudden buzz about the BJP in Odisha? In the Zilla Parishad polls, conducted in 2017, out of 851 seats, BJP won 297 seats to come second behind the BJD, which won 473 seats. Congress was reduced to the third position. In 2012, Zilla Parishad polls, the BJP had won only 36 seats.
Former Biju Janata Dal MP Baijayant Jay Panda greeting BJP president Shri Amit Shah after joining the BJP in New Delhi 
Post Panchayat polls, does the BJP have a realistic chance to wrest Odisha from BJD in 2019 assembly elections? Now the state assembly elections are being held along with the parliamentary polls. Can the BJP build on its emerging in Panchayat polls and become a strong contender to oust Naveen Patnaik, who is ruling Odisha uninterruptedly since 2000?
Former BJD Minister Shri Damodar Rout joining BJP 
The Election Commission declared that Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls are being held simultaneously in Odisha in four phases. In 2014 general elections, out of 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha, Jual Oram was the only BJP MP elected from the state and rest 20 seats went to BJD. This time political scenario of the state is not the same as it was in 2014. Naveen Patnaik, who is CM of the state for the last 19 years, earlier looked as invincible in state politics, looks like his appeal is eroded. With BJP growing in the state, Naveen Patnaik’s popularity faces the biggest challenge ever in this general election.
Former IAS officer of Odisha cadre Aparajita Sarangi joining the BJP 
Political observers say BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, who has a very warm relationship with Senior Congress leaders in Delhi, successfully manages the Congress Party. PCC presidents were changed by AICC just before 2009 and 2014 election so that it can help BJD. This has been admitted by former PCC President Jaydev Jena in public. So, managing the main opposition party Congress is the main reason for Naveen’s political success. Till 2014, Congress used to be the main opposition party. But after 2017 Panchayat polls, the BJP has emerged as a strong opposition Party, which seems to be fighting in a non-compromised mood.
BJP strengthening organisational base
Just after the 2014 General Election, BJP national president Amit Shah visited Odisha in November 2014 and asked Party leaders and karyakartas to strengthen the Party base in the state. Party karyakartas worked accordingly and strengthened the organisational base. Bharatiya Janata Party got the result of hard work in 2017 Panchayat poll, which was seen as semi-final before 2019 general elections. In Panchayat election, BJP from mere 36 seats in 2012 has jumped to 297 out of 848 seats that had gone to polls in five phases in the month of February 2017. Launching ‘Mission 120+’ in the state in September 2017, Shri Amit Shah had given the task to State leadership to consolidate its position at the grass roots level by forming booth level committees. State leadership claims they are in better position than BJD in terms of dedicated workers for micro management of polls at 36,000 booths. This shows the Modi wave, Naveen’s anti-incumbency and BJP’s 36K Shakti Kendras will push BJP’s vote share to a level extent.
BJP gears up to gain in coastal Odisha
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and in a major boost to BJP in Odisha, former Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, who always considered as a trump card recently joined the BJP. After months of speculations, senior leader and former BJD Minister Damodar Rout also joined the BJP. Similarly, Congress MLA Prakash Behera also joined BJP recently. All these leaders are from coastal Odisha where BJP was not in good positions. After the joining of these strong leaders of the coastal Odisha, BJP hopes to make inroads into coastal Odisha,particularly in politically sensitive districts like undivided Cuttack and Puri districts. During November Aparajita Sarangi, a former IAS officer of Odisha cadre, also joined the BJP.
BJP Replaces Congress as Main Opposition
In Panchayat poll, the BJP not only gained in terms of Zila Parishad seats, but vote percentage of the Party also increased. In Panchayat polls of 2017, the BJP got 33 per cent vote, whereas in 2014 general elections the BJP had got only18 per cent. So, the BJP managed to secure 15 per cent more votes. Biju Janata Dal’s vote percentage decreased in Panchayat polls. BJD got 41 per cent vote in 2017, whereas in 2014 general elections, the Party had got 43 per cent votes. The main opposition Party in the assembly, Congress, had performed miserably in Panchayat poll losing almost 15 per cent votes compared to General election of 2014. Congress secured 18 per cent vote, whereas it had got 33 per cent votes in the 2014 General Election.
  • BJP got the result of hard work in 2017 Panchayat poll, which was seen as semi-final to 2019 general elections. In Panchayat election, BJP from 36 seats in 2012 has jumped to 297 
  • From 2014 to 2018, the Modi govt constructed over 10,000 km National Highways in Odisha, while under UPA rule from 2004 to 2014 only 4500 km NH was constructed
  • As BJP starts holding 5000 Vijay Sankalp street meetings in all 21 Lok Sabha constituencies, Naveen Patnaik faces a tough challenge
Even after Panchayat polls, where the BJP emerged as main opposition Party in the state, the trend continues. After Panchayat polls, a by-election was held for Bijepur seat in Bargarh District. In this by-election, BJP remained number two and the Congress candidate lost the deposit, though the byelection was held after the death of a Congress MLA.
Development works of Modi Govt in Odisha
During the campaign rallies in Odisha in 2014, Narendra Modi said that Bharat’s development will be incomplete without the development of eastern states including Odisha. He will focus on the development of Odisha if voted to power. Accordingly, after 2014 Narendra Modi government kept his assurance and the Central Government focused on the development of the state.
With an investment of over Rs 22,000 crore, the expansion of Paradip Refinery from 15 to 25 MMTPA is one major step by Modi Government. With this, Pradip will become the single largest PSUs refinery in India and Odisha will be the second largest refining capacity after Gujarat. Making it a hub of petrochemical industry and providing direct and indirect employment opportunity to thousands of youths. Apart from this Central Government had proposed a Pet Coke –Gasification at Paradip at an investment of Rs 11,000 crore. Under PM Urja Ganga Project, Modi Government allocated Rs 3,800 crore to spread 769 km gas pipeline covering 13 districts of Odiahs, while Rs 5,500 crore has been allocated for Dhamra LNG terminal. Under the Petroleum Sector, the Government has invested over Rs 1.31 lakh crore in Odisha, MCL has so far invested Rs 6,256 crore, NTPC has invested over Rs 23,500 crore, SAIL has made an investment of over Rs 16,400 crore and NALCO has made an investment of Rs 34,500 crore in Odisha.
Under 14th Finance Commission, the Modi Government has allocated over Rs 2.20 lakh crore to Odisha from 2015-19, while under UPA regime from 2009 to 2014 only Rs 96,000 crore was allocated. This expresses the priority of the Modi Government for the development of the eastern region of the country and Odisha. Under the UPA-II regime between 2009-2014, the government had only allocated Rs 4000 crore for development of Railways, while the Modi Government allocated over Rs 20,000 crore between 2014 to 2019.
From 2014 to 2018, the government has constructed over 10,000 km National Highways in Odisha, while under UPA regime from 2004 to 2014 only 4500 km NH had been constructed. The Modi Government has constructed about 18 lakhs houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in Odisha, while 55 lakh toilets have been constructed Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in Odisha. Around 40 lakh villages in Odisha have been provided free electricity under Saubhagya scheme.
In 2014, there were 20 lakh LPG consumers in Odisha, now it has reached to 70 lakh, including 40 lakh Ujjwala beneficiary. Odisha has never witnessed such huge benefits from the Centre in the history of independence. These schemes may be proved as a blessing for BJP in coming 2019 elections in Odisha.
However, non-implementation of Ayushman Bharat Scheme, world’s largest health care scheme, and delay in providing lists of farmers in PM Kisan Nidhi Yojana also may put adverse impact on Naveen’s BJD and a favourable wave for BJP. “Naveen Patnaik may criticise the Centre in a political matter, but when it comes to the interest of poor people, he must not oppose the scheme for merely political reasons. As many as 61 lakh families would benefit under the programme. But after repeated appeal, Shri Patnaik is not implementing this scheme.” This has become a campaign speech by BJP Odisha’s senior leader in Odisha.
Modi Government’s Schemes is the BJP’s Campaigning Model
Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government used to take the credit of central schemes successfully including food Security Scheme in recent years. Though in Rs 1 per kg rice scheme State govt provides nominal subsidy and lion’s share of the subsidy is contributed by Central Govt, Naveen Patnaik govt used to take full credit of this scheme. During the UPA regime Congress state unit failed to establish that this populist scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme. But after Narendra Modi came to power in Delhi, BJP state unit launched a long and massive campaign in the state to establish that it is Modi Govt’s scheme. Even PM Narendra Modi in his public rallies raised this issue and said Centre contributes around Rs 450 crore per month for the scheme.
BJP Odisha unit has successfully highlighted the grants given to Odisha in different sectors. How previous government of Congress at the Centre was providing fewer funds and how the Modi Government is providing funds in multiple times than the former Government has become a political tag line by BJP Odisha.
BJD government is going to face strong anti-incumbency in the upcoming election and the BJP has made a strong organisational base in the state during the last five years. With favourable conditions for the Party in the state, BJP has already geared up for the election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed three mammoth rallies in different parts of the state in recent months and targeted Naveen Patnaik for corruption and indecisiveness of the State Government. BJP National President Amit Shah’s focus was on Odisha after 2014. More than twenty Union Ministers visited Odisha and addressed rallies across the state in last two months. Party has also started organising 5000 Vijay Sankalp street corner meeting in all 21 Lok Sabha constituencies. This time the BJP is taking the election in the state very seriously. Naveen Patnaik is facing a tough challenge for the first time in his two decades long political carrier.