Elections 2019: Why Narendra Modi may contest from Puri

Bhubaneswar: West Bengal BJP Chief, Dilip Ghosh’s announcement that a proposal of Narendra Modi contesting from Puri is already under discussion within the party has taken Odisha politics by storm. While speculations are rife now about the political ramifications it will have, many are wondering the very intention behind such a move.

After coming to power in 2014, Modi had made his intentions clear towards the east. Besides, BJP National President Amit Shah had said his party’s golden period would begin only after forming governments in four states, including Odisha and West Bengal.

It is worth mentioning that the BJP had won two out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal and only one out of 21 in Odisha in the 2014 general elections. And this is one of the reasons why Modi would want to tap this belt and maximize its seat share in 2019.

Moreover, Modi might play the Hindu card by contesting from Puri. He had earlier contested from Varanasi and may consider the holiest pilgrimage and ‘Char Dham’ Puri for 2019, believe political experts.

Odisha BJP leaders hope that the party’s prospects will improve significantly if Modi contests from the coastal belt (the stronghold of ruling-BJD) and it will also change its fortune in Odisha and the entire eastern India.

It seems the groundwork for Modi to contest from the holy town is already being done on a war-footing. A couple of months ago, the national executive meet of the party’s women wing was organized in Puri.

Besides, Modi and Shah had already visited the pilgrimage town and met Puri Sankaracharya during their visit to Odisha. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had also earlier said that the ‘Nabakalebara’ of BJP would begin from Puri.

Meanwhile, State BJP general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan said, “We are not denying the possibility of Modi contesting from Puri but it is Modi himself who will take the final decision. If PM Modi contests from Puri, the party’s prospects in the eastern India will definitely get a boost.”

“The BJD has been ruling the State since long and anti-incumbency will be a factor that the BJP must try to encash and PM Modi should consider Puri as his seat for the general polls,” said senior journalist, Prasanna Mohanty.

On the other hand, the BJD said that Modi choosing Puri will have no impact on its (BJD) prospects in the State.

“The BJP has made a strategy as per which Modi may contest from Puri and similarly, we have also made our counter-strategy to defeat them. We will win 123 seats in the upcoming elections,” said senior BJD leader and minister Surya Narayan Patro.

Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik said, out of desperation the State unit of the saffron party wants Modi to contest from Puri. “All are seeing where the BJP government at the Centre is heading to; and out of helplessness, they want Modi or Shah to contest from Odisha thinking that it might help them sail through.”