Party gains ground with 36 zilla parishad seats in 2012 to 303 seats this year.
Bhubaneswar: After 17 years of smooth sailing, his populist measures and fragmented and fragile opposition from rival Congress to BJP, Odisha chief minister and BJD president Naveen Patnaik is now facing a strong challenge.
This is evident from the fact that the BJP, which won 303 of the total 854 zilla parishad seats in the just concluded five-phase polls, has sent a strong message to Mr Patnaik. The party now seems to be ready to deal him a blow in the 2019 Assembly polls.
Ruling uninterruptedly since 2000, the BJD has consecutively won four Assembly elections by showcasing Mr Patnaik a “clean” personality and “able” administrator.
However, in the panchayat elections, the BJP, led by Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Jual Oram, tried hard to prove these two adjectives as “false” and “hypocrisy”, which, they claimed on many occasions, are deliberately used to cover up large-scale corruption and hide the “incapability” of the BJD government.
BJP national general secretary in-charge of Odisha, Arun Singh, said the party’s stellar performance of jumping from 36 ZP seats in 2012 polls to 303 seats this year was possible as the BJD failed on crucial fronts like water, electricity, health, housing and admiration of the Union government’s welfare schemes. The “pro-poor” image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also added to the advantage.
Mr Singh said that even though Naveen Patnaik has been in power for the last 17 years, his government has failed to provide clean drinking water to the people of the state.
“In the last couple of years, about 80 people have died of water-borne diseases, about 70 children have died in hospitals, 121 people have succumbed to Japanese fever and 150 farmers have committed suicide,” he claimed, adding, electricity is not being provided for 24 hours anywhere in the state and a large number of villagers don’t not have pucca houses.
“Official machinery was misused and the voters’ list was tampered with. Otherwise, the BJP’s performance would have been even more impressive,” claimed the BJP leader.
A buoyant Mr Singh also claimed that going by the impressive results, the BJP would form the government in the 2019 Assembly elections and improve its tally also in the next Lok Sabha polls.
As of now, the BJP has one Lok Sabha MP – Jual Oram – from Sundargarh. The other leader, Dharmendra Pradhan, has been elected to Rajya Sabha from Bihar.
When the BJD was battling rebel activities at the grassroots just ahead of 2017 panchayat polls, the BJP was busy in making major strides in the expansion of its organisational structure in all the 30 districts. In the last couple of years, the BJP has created a structure from the earlier 451 to 999 blocks. The party’s presence has increased from one block per 100 booths to one block per 32 booths.
An agitation was held every month at the block level, once every three months at the district level and once every six months at the state level, connecting the party activists, leaders and voters from down to top.