Vikash Sharma

From third spot in 2014 to number 2 party in Odisha by 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be on a mission. As per political experts, BJP's central leadership is focussing on eastern India including Odisha and there is every possibility that there would be a tighter fight between BJP and the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the crucial 2024 elections.

No wonder, the Odisha unit of BJP is gearing up to make rapid inroads and has devised strategy and blue print to focus on 60 Assembly seats this time apart from its targeted 12 Lok Sabha seats. A special strategy is also being chalked out for the 12 assembly seats in which the saffron party lost to BJD with a very narrow margin.

If sources are to be believed, BJP is eyeing to grab at least 51 per cent vote share in the upcoming elections.

Everything will be crystal clear once Home Minister Amit Shah visits Odisha in the last week of January. Not only Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also likely to attend Lok Sabha Pravas programme of the BJP in Odisha as well.

The saffron party seems to be on right path by revisiting its election management strategy and focusing on the seats on which the party candidates lost by narrow margins. At present, BJP has 22 MLAs and the party is now trying to focus on 60 Assembly seats where there were close contests.

Many believe that BJP might gain some ground with its two-fold strategy- making people aware of the central schemes and targeting state government over local issues and problems. Though less than one and a half years is left to the crucial 2024 elections, the speculations of an early election has certainly prompted political parties to act fast. BJP’s focus will also be on strengthening its organisation and create an atmosphere against the BJD.

“In as many as 60 seats, we had lost with a low margin to BJD and the vote difference was only 18 lakh. In election management, we had failed last time and there is no such chance and we will certainly do well this time,” said Opposition leader Jayanarayan Mishra.

With Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other central leaders scheduled to attend a series of meetings and programmes in Odisha to strengthen party’s prospects, it remains to be seen what tasks the central leaders assign to leaders in the state in coming days.

“Amit Shah's programme in Odisha in two Parliamentary constituencies will be finalised soon. Similarly, planning for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha Pravas Yojana is also being done. Our efforts are on to win all the 12 Lok Sabha seats which the party lost in the last election with proper planning and strategy,” said senior BJP leader, Prithviraj Harichandan.

Senior journalist, Prasanna Mohanty said, “As Congress is losing ground in Odisha, there will be a direct contest between the BJP and BJD. It seems that BJP has enhanced its focus on states like Odisha and a well-planned strategy is on cards.”

Senior Congress leader, Suresh Routray said, “In Congress there were issues in organisation and ticket distribution last time. But now we are one unit at the ground level and it will be reflected in 2024.”

BJD leader Debi Mishra said, “Odisha will always be in everybody’s focus and foremost for BJD as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have also visited Odisha in the past. But it is the people’s blessing through ballot which matters.”

(Reported by Jagdish Das and Soumya Ranjan Sahu)