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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: Politicians always love to win the ballot boxes by bus than by sweating it out on the dusty roads. In a first, BJD has made the Odisha election campaign reminiscent of the 'delight buses' in vogue in southern India, UP and Bihar.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik rode to the annals of high voltage political campaign in Odisha, when on Wednesday he undertook a 60km long electoral tour on board a hi-tech bus criss-crossing the Berhampur Lok Sabha constituency. The 'election bus' chugged Odisha down to a new era, which till now has been the trademark campaign style of political leaders in south India and, of late, in UP.

The BJD 'election bus' has an automatic sunroof, a hydraulic lift, water tank, refrigerator, chemical vacuum toilet and many more hi-tech furnishes. The party is, however, tight-lipped on the maker and price of the BJD 'magic bus'.

However, top BJD sources revealed that the fittings and design have been undertaken by a major automaker in Chennai, whose client base were top politicians in south India. And given the hi-tech designs, the price of the BJD 'poll bus' has been pegged at around Rs 1crore.

BJD's campaign blitzkrieg in 2019 elections comes with an eye-popping cost tag.  Party spent a whopping around Rs 7crore for as many as 350 LED vans that would extensively campaign for BJD in rural areas highlighting government programmes.

Cut to the 2014 elections. BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik had flagged off his poll campaign  from Shergarh ( Hinjli constituency) in Ganjam district. CM did have a road show. His carcade reached Berhampur constituency. He held a similar carcade road show in Gopalpur. Naveen had then traversed around 40 km in patches, not in one go. But in 2019, Naveen traversed 60km long route boarding a luxurious bus. Moreover, the LED vans in 2014 were not even half the current LED fleet.

With anti-incumbency weighing heavy on the mind, BJD Sources revealed the party is not taking any chances and has a plan to chug down the 'poll bus' with CM on board across a high of around 25,000 villages this elections. In 2014, Naveen could cover mere 9,000 villages. Post 2017 rural poll shock, a panicked BJD has brought in this strategy, feel political observers.

Significantly, Ollywood stars travelling in an open SUV along with the CM's entourage during the Berhampur road show raised many an eyebrows. Because, BJD post the 2017 rural poll shock had claimed that our superstar is Naveen Patnaik; in panchayat polls only cine stars had campaigned. Political observers feel this is the first time in long electoral history when Naveen's entourage included actors and actress.

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