Himansu Shekhar Rout

As the 2024 general election is drawing closer, the major political parties in Odisha have started their groundwork to woo voters with a sharp focus on the newly enrolled educated voters in urban areas. 

The BJP and the BJD along with the Congress are reportedly leaving no stone unturned to reach out to these voters. 

The state unit of BJP is reportedly imparting training to its elected corporators and councillors on how to wean away the voters in slum areas from the lure of the ruling BJD government’s schemes.
The BJP has involved its elected representatives in the civic bodies under 19 organisational districts in a three-day workshop that kicked off in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi and head of the Prashikyana Barga Rajkumar Falwaria imparted training. 

On Sunday, coordinator of the BJP Parliamentary Party national convener Shiv Shakti Nath Bakshi took training classes of the elected representatives with the main focus on how to cement ties with new voters by January 2024. 

The BJP leaders, while emphasizing on efforts to increase the voting percentage, hope that as urban voters are educated and conscious, they should be encouraged to take part in the voting process. And, their votes may go in favour of the BJP, the party believes.

Senior BJP leader Surama Padhi said that seven issues were discussed in the workshop for urban representatives who will reach out to the people and highlight various pro-poor welfare schemes of the Central government for the urban poor.
BJP corporator, Gagan Ojha said, “Our prime responsibility is to ensure that youths aged 18 or above should be added to the voter list. We are preparing ourselves on how to form the government in Odisha.”

Urban-Centric Move of Political Parties

Moreover, the BJP has been trying to make urban voters aware of various welfare schemes of the Central government and organise protests against the state government by highlighting local issues and the state government's apathy. In the training programme, elected representatives from panchayats will take part on Monday. 

There are over 60 lakh voters in urban local bodies of Odisha, of whom nearly 40.55 lakh had exercised their franchise in the last civic body polls. This indicates that the participation of the urban voters in the elections has decreased. These ‘reluctant’ or ‘disgruntled’ voters can play key roles in tilting the balance in the electoral politics in the 2024 elections, believe experts.

BJP Vote Bank on the Rise?

The BJP has reasons to keep faith in urban voters as its vote bank in the urban areas is on the rise. In 2022, the BJP has got its sway in 16 NACs in the state. Though the other urban local bodies were won by the BJD, the vote percentage for the BJP comparatively increased. 

In Bhubaneswar, the BJP was once struggling to get its foothold but it registered victory in 10 wards in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation in the last civic body elections. 

Keeping this in view, the BJP is trying its best to strengthen its urban vote bank. By organising training workshops, the frontline leaders have taught elected representatives about booth management, said sources.

BJD, Congress Nullify Saffron Claim

The ruling BJD and Congress on the other hand still believe that the urban voters are with them. BJD’s Bhubaneswar unit president Sushant Rout rejected the claim of the BJP saying that the urban people have always been with the state government as it has provided pattas to the residents. 

“Biju Adarsh Colonies have been set up. And all facilities have been made. All will come with us when elections come. We have done works for people of Odisha,” he added. 

Congress' veteran Sura Routray said, “The BJD and the BJP will buy votes in slums in the name of housing units. Educated youths are now headed towards Congress. Urban voters in slum areas are always conscious. They will reject both the BJP and the BJD, but side with Congress.”

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