Meet the man behind the saffron surge in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might have continued its stellar run in the ongoing panchayat polls in Odisha, but the brain behind the success of the saffron party is someone who, for many remains unrecognizable. The party’s political success, from a dismal third position in 2012 panchayat elections to a close second place in this rural poll, is attributed by party workers to BJP’s national joint secretary (organisaiton) Soudan Singh.

Party sources said, for Singh, who is known for his strong organisational skills, the focus was to strengthen party’s grassroots in Odisha. And going by the number of Zilla Parishad (ZP) seats the party has won so far, he has proved his mettle by narrowing his party’s margin with the BJD. While the saffron party has claimed a majority in at least 8 of the 30 districts, BJD got a comfortable majority in 13 districts, at the end of the fourth phase of the polls on Sunday. BJP won 63 zilla parishad seats on Sunday, taking its tally to 259 seats. BJD has so far won 374 seats, a major slide from its tally in the 2012 panchayat polls. Congress has so far won in only 48 zilla parishad seats, its worst-ever performance in the panchayat elections in the State.

“Yes, undoubtedly we have tasted success in the regions where we were weak. It was possible only because of the party’s strong organisaiton at the grassroots level. Because in panchayat polls nothing works out except a strong organisation,” said Union minister Jual Oram who has been camping in Odisha since the beginning of the panchayat polls.

Singh, party source said, is believed to have been handed over the charge as the strategist for Odisha polls by the party high command, as BJP wants to show its strength in the eastern part of the country following its impressive electoral performance in Assam last year. On a high after winning Assam by way of elections and Arunachal by way of political manoeuvring, BJP has now set its sights on the Manipur election (March 4 and 8) in pursuit of achieving a Congress-mukt Northeast. Singh, who has been instrumental in party’s tremendous show in the past elections, will hope to replicate the party’s success story in 2019 general elections in Odisha.

If assumptions of political analysts are to be believed, the saffron party will try to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor in 2019 elections; given the resentment of voters which they apparently showed in the ongoing polls.

“The people of Odisha have expressed their displeasure over the ruling government and of course we have prepared special strategies to oust the Naveen Patnaik government,” Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.

BJP has so far got a majority in Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Kalahandi, Deogarh, Subarnapur, Sambalpur, Bargarh and Bolangir Zilla Parishads. In tribal-dominated Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj and Malkangiri districts particularly, it has almost made clean sweeps.