The BJP is striving hard to emerge as a major force in Odisha by performing better in the panchayat polls.
Bhubaneswar: Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik seems to be facing the toughest battle in his two-decade-old career. For the first time, the BJP, which nourished Mr Patnaik in his initial days in state politics by forging an alliance with his regional outfit BJD, has declared an all-out war against him.
Recurrent raids on BJD leaders’ houses and offices by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the multi-crore chit fund scam and recent vitriolic attack by BJP president Amit Shah and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan on chief minister Naveen Patnaik have left the party bleeding.
At least three top BJD leaders have been arrested by the CBI and a few are likely to meet the same fate in the chit fund scam. The regional outfit believes that the saffron party — as part of Narendra Modi’s ‘Look East Policy’ — is making a systematic bid through the CBI to destablise it and capture power in 2019 polls.
Hard-pressed to defend his fort, the BJD supremo Patnaik has started utilising all resources and mechanisms at his disposal. He has asked all the collectors in 30 districts to directly and regularly interact with maximum number of people possible and immediately address their grievances.
Besides, the CM has instructed the collectors that all government schemes and sops, including the most popular `1 per kg rice scheme, old age and widow pensions, free shawls, free umbrellas and slippers, reached the people ahead of the panchayat polls, scheduled to be held next month.
The CM has also asked his officials to convert all the thatched houses into pucca houses by the end of 2017 under Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana and Indira Awas Yojana. Besides, he has directed the officials to strengthen the Mission Shakti Movement by providing added support and assistance to over 10 lakh self-help groups (SHGs) formed under the scheme.
Around 60 lakh women enrolled as SHG members and nearly five lakh women have benefited under Mission Shakti and Mamata Yojana, respectively. These women constitute the strongest support base of the ruling BJD. Of the total 2.49 crore voters in Odisha, 1.39 crore are women.
In the 2014 assembly and Lok Sabha elections, despite campaign by heavyweight BJP leaders like Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Rajanth Singh, the BJD bettered its results by winning 117 seats in the Assembly and 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won only one Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats. Larger participation of women voters benefited by various state government schemes had tilted the results heavily in favour of the BJD.
To shake and shatter this support base, the BJP has planned to reach out to maximum number of women through the Union government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUJ) under which new LPG connections are provided to below poverty line category women. Besides the saffron party has been highlighting the state government’s failures to protect the interest of farmers, wage earners and exaggerated claim on achievements in execution of certain schemes.
Currently, the third major political force with just 19 per cent vote share in the last 2014 Assembly elections, the BJP wants to catapult itself to the second position through better performances in the panchayat elections, dislodging the Congress that bagged 25 per cent votes.
The BJP think-tank believes a better performance in panchayat polls would come as major morale booster for the party’s rank and file and help the party defeat the Naveen Patnaik government in 2009 polls.