BJP, Congress cornering BJD govt on crumbling healthcare, poor education system, corruption and crimes.
Bhubaneswar: Faced with the challenge of retaining power for the fifth consecutive term, Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik is now pitted against a strong and determined phalanx of the Opposition that appears set to wrest power from him in 2019.
While Amit Shah himself is leading the BJP camp, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who once declared himself as the sipahi of Adivasis (soldiers of tribals), is ready to lead his party from the front.
Both the leaders have plans to visit Odisha this month to prepare grounds for their party’s campaign for 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP has already galvanised its organisational machinery by reaching out nearly two-thirds of 36,000 booths in the state. Party president Mr Shah has fixed a target for the state leaders to reach all the booths by September.
The BJP president has set a target of winning at least 120 of the 147 Assembly seats. At present, the BJD hold 117 seats, Congress 16 and the BJP 10, besides some others.
Sources in the saffron party said soon after Mr Shah’s visit to the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who sees Odisha as a strategic land to be conquered for expansion of the party in the east, will address a massive rally in the state to set the tone for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
The BJP, now the second major party after the ruling BJD in the state, has articulately strategised its aggresivecampaign. Sources said the party has decided to go offensive on a host of social and governance issues; and major scams that took place in the last 18 years of the Naveen Patnaik government.
On development issues, the BJP leaders have been sharing on all possible platforms the contribution of the Narendra Modi government to the state’s socio-economic development.
Crumbling healthcare and primary education systems, continuation of migration of the poor from southern and western parts of Odisha to other states in search of work; alleged patronisation of gangsters by BJD leaders, multi-crore chit fund and mining scams are the key issues the BJP has chalked out to nail the government.
Already on the back-foot following a series of arrests of its leaders by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chit fund scam, the BJD fears more aggressions from the federal probe agency before the polls. Leaders of the regional outfit have gone on record, saying the BJP has been using the CBI to wrest power from it, a charge the saffron party rejected.
The Congress which dreams of returning to power in the state after 20 years has almost quelled the factional feuds and installed veteran party leader Niranjan Patnaik as the new Pradesh Congress committee president.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Rahul Gandhi had recently sent his trusted man and former Union minister Jitendra Singh as the state in-charge.
In fact, Mr Singh has proved his worth by cementing a bridge between the top leaders of the party who in the past did not see eye to eye on different issues.
The Congress, like the BJP, is also building up a strong, high-tech social media campaign with high-skilled professionals hired from reputed agencies to counter the BJD’s “politics of propaganda”.
“All these years, the BJD has hoodwinked the people by rolling out some sops which have made people dependent on it. No tangible progress has been made in creating productive infrastructure or assets. Real development has eluded the people and Odisha. Despite all its failures, the Naveen Patnaik government continues to survive because of a strong propaganda campaign on development,” says PCC president Niranjan Patnaik.
As the BJP and Congress are busy giving final touches to their build-ups, the BJD has embarked upon preparing counter-strategies to withstand the assault and emerge victorious for the record fifth term.
If the BJD retains power and Mr Patnaik rules for the full fifth term, he will equal the record of Jyoti Basu of West Bengal and Pawan Kumar Chamling of Sikkim who led their parties to victory as chief ministers for a record fifth term.