Growth of BJP in Odisha and what it means to the National Politics. March 9, 2017

The recently concluded Odisha elections have come as a surprise even for many political pundits. In what was expected to be an easy sailing for the Biju Janta Dal has turned out to be the toughest fight for them since the time they came to power.

Out of the 846 Zilla Parishad seats that just went to polls BJD expectedly stood first with 473 seats but BJP was seen as the largest gainer with 297 seats. Congress was decimated with just 60 seats falling in its kitty. Just 5 years ago BJD had won close to 652 seats, Congress had won close to 228 seats and BJP was a dismal third with just 36 seats.

Lot of effort has been put in by Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Jual Oram ji and Union Petroleum Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan ji for the fortunes of BJP to change over the past of couple of years. Most notable has been the 5 lakh + gas connections which have been given in Odisha alone; changing the fortunes of rural women who were otherwise suffering from ill effects of using firewood and traditional fuel.

Both the Ministers have been criss-crossing the length and breadth of Odisha incessantly over the past couple of years. Besides the Odisha cadre also put to proper use the services of Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand along the bordering districts to create further trust amongst those people. The Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh succeeded in convincing the people of Odisha that the issue surrounding Mahanadi water sharing and barrage were merely political and could be resolved if the State Government of Odisha were also willing for the same.

Reportedly more than 2000 karyakartas were brought in from the neighbouring state of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand by the BJP. All of these supported by the strong backing from BJP Central Leadership, frequent visits of Party President Shri Amit Shah, political Acumen and Campaign Management by Shri Dhamendra Pradhan and Grass Root Organisation set up established by Party Organisational Incharge Shri Saudan Singh helped the BJP further.

The BJD on the other hand did not use its organizational setup well and rather relied only on Celebrities to connect with the masses. All of this did not go down well with the party cadre, besides many local sulking leaders did not participate actively in the campaign.

The results however have triggered a wide spread fear among the BJD cadre and jubiliation in the BJP camp. The BJP sees this as a step towards dislodging the State Government after the next Assembly elections. What it also does is creates a hope of bagging higher number of Lok Sabha seats during 2019 Parliamentary elections.

The Congress having relegated to a dismal third might evaluate the option of aligning with BJD to raise its stocks like the way it has done in UP, Bihar and elsewhere. Neighboring state Bengal is also showing good signs for the BJP. Tamil Nadu is in disarray after Jayalalithas death, Karnataka might swing back to BJP as predicted by many Survey Agencies and BJP has succeeded to open its account in Kerala. All in the Coromandel plan of BJP seems to be working. But will it create newer alliances on the opposite benches and help rebound the sinking fortunes of INC is something only time will tell.

Till then it’s Namo Namo all the way!!!

- Prof. Manish Kelkar