Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Odisha four times since September 2017.
Bhubaneswar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has visited Odisha four times since September 2017, is aiming to win at least 12 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the eastern state to make up for possible losses for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and other Hindi heartland states. In 2014, the BJP had won only one Lok Sabha seat in Odisha.
In the last one month, Mr Modi has addressed three public rallies in Odisha and is scheduled to come to the coastal state again on February 5 to give a further push to the saffron party’s “Mission East”.
Political analysts claim that the Prime Minister is making desperate attempts to win at least 20 to 30 seats in eastern India, including Odisha and West Bengal, so as to compensate for possible losses due to the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) alliance in Uttar Pradesh.
What makes the BJP optimistic about its eastern India mission is that after languishing as the third political force in Odisha for years it has jumped to the second position in the recent past.
Similarly, the saffron party emerged number two in West Bengal rural and municipal polls last year, leaving the Congress and the Left far behind. Buoyed by the BJP’s performance in rural polls where it won more than 7,000 seats in panchayats, party chief Amit Shah has set a target of winning at least 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.
Amid speculation that the Prime Minister is contemplating to contest from Puri Lok Sabha seat, with some top BJP leaders in the state unit almost confirming it, the BJP is pulling out all stops to reach its goal of bagging over a dozen Lok Sabha seats in Odisha.
BJP’s “Mission East” formally kicked off in April 2017 when it held its two-day national executive meet in Bhubaneswar. Mr Modi, Mr Shah, chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states and all towering leaders of the party gathered here and univocally announced their commitment to add to eastern Indian’s growth momentum.
Very strategically, the venue of the national executive meet was named after Bhima Bhoi, a great dalit Odia poet, ostensibly to expand its dalit outreach in the eastern state.
The dalits constitute over 17 per cent of the state’s electorate and have never been traditional voters of the saffron party.
During the meet that was held from April 15 to 16, Prime Minister Modi felicitated members of 16 families associated with the 1817 Paika rebellion in Odisha against the British rule.
This was seen as a strategic move to woo Khandayats and Khatriyas who account for 26 per cent of the state population.
With almost 33 per cent votes in the 2017 rural polls, the BJP is preparing to deliver a knock out punch on the BJD whose vote share still remains an enviable 43 per cent.
Continuing its focus in the state, BJP mahila morcha national executive meet was held in Puri from September 23 to 25, 2018. While addressing the meet, Mr Shah appeared quite harsh on the Naveen Patnaik government for rejecting the Centre’s flagship health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat. He also alleged that Odisha chief minister had deprived people of the state of benefits of the health scheme owing to his “animosity towards the BJP”.
“The BJP workers will undertake door-to-door campaign to make people aware of BJD’s anti-poor politics,” he had said.
The BJP which won only from Sundaragarh Lok Sabha and finished runner-up in nine of the 21 seats in 2014 general elections, is eyeing at least 12 seats this time in Odisha. The party has also set “Mission 120+” (120 of 147 Assembly seats) target in the state. The Assembly polls will be held along with LS polls in May.
On September 22, 2018, the Prime Minister addressed two public meetings — one at Talcher and another at Jharsuguda — where he criticised the BJD on corruption and governance.
In his recent meetings at Khurda, Baripada and Bolangir, Mr Modi raised the issue of distress sale for farm produce, migration of youths to other states in search of livelihood and Naveen Patnaik government’s failure to spend `4,000 crore lying in district mineral fund.