Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

Amid the Hockey World Cup fever in Odisha, the Opposition has targeted the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and alleged that the ruling party is using ‘sports' as a political tool to woo the youth for political gains.
Sports lovers across the state are quite excited about the FIH Hockey World Cup 2023. The Odisha government is leaving no stone unturned to promote the event and is reaching out even at the panchayat level. 

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have alleged that the youths are on the focus of BJD and the ruling party is chalking out strategies to win their trust through ‘sports politics’ just ahead of the 2024 general elections.

As alleged by the Opposition, in the 2019 general elections, the ruling-party had formed the Biju Yuva Vahini with a strategy to reach out to the youth through sports. Moreover, BJD distributed different sports goods and gear to the youths at the panchayat level through different local clubs. With this strategy, the party achieved success in wooing a large number of young voters. The Opposition alleged that BJD is re-implementing the same strategy ahead of the 2024 general elections. 

Though the strategy worked earlier, youth are increasingly slanting towards the BJP, claimed the saffron party. For this reason, apart from promoting Hockey at the panchayat level, the Odisha government is constructing mini stadiums in all blocks.

BJP’s General Secretary Pritviraj Harichandan said, “The hopes with which they (BJD) have implemented the strategies to entice the young voters, will fail. The defamed image of the Odisha government will not improve under any circumstances. ”

On the other hand, Congress claimed that the young mass will not put their trust in the incumbent government. 

Congress MP, Saptagiri Ulaka said, “Odisha government had initiated different schemes and programmes which do not exist now. Similarly, the ‘Biju Yuva Vahani’ vanished after the general elections. Unemployment in Odisha is on the rise and the government is showing no interest in chalking out a permanent solution. They are forming new plans and strategies only for votes and people have understood the same. People will give a befitting reply in 2024.”

On the other hand, BJD has countered that the Opposition is not able to accept the happiness of Odisha youths.

BJD MP and party’s national spokesperson Amar Patnaik said, “It is not just that youths are only interested in sports, even older persons are. Young masses are quite happy. I think Opposition parties are unable to tolerate their joy.”

As per Odisha State Election Commission data, there are 3,23,49,341 voters in the state of which 5,94,613 are first-time voters. Last year, the number of voters aged between 18 to 19 years was 2,10,268 and the number has increased to 4,46,779 this year. It is believed that to woo these new voters, the BJD is using hockey as well as other sports to enhance its outreach.