Op-Ed: BJP Needs to Rework Its Strategy In Odisha

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Against a target of 120 plus set by BJP president, Amit Shah the party has managed to win to just 23 assembly seats in Odisha. But party leaders remain upbeat about BJP’s prospects in the state where they see tremendous potential for growth. In fact, a section of them think that by the time next general elections come calling BJP will have made itself strong enough to dislodge Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) from power.

Their confidence stems from the fact that the party, despite winning a mere 23 seats in the state assembly, was the runners up behind the BJD in a large number of constituencies. Besides the BJP in Odisha has achieved its first target of replacing the Congress as the main opposition party. BJP strategists confide that they are moving step by step and will work patiently on strengthening the party’s organisational base right up to the booth level to be able to take full advantage of the factors that work in their favour during the elections.

For example, it is being pointed out that that BJP’s victory on eight Lok Sabha seats in the state including all the five falling in western Odisha is a clear indication of the popularity of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who happens to be its most powerful poll mascot. However, the party could not take full advantage of this factor in the assembly elections because rival BJD’s organisational base was much stronger in comparison. Besides the party fielded a large number of new candidates who were rather unknown faces and failed to inspire confidence among voters about their winning prospects and BJP’s ability to form a government in the state.

The party now seems keen on taking corrective steps. Apart from strengthening the organisational structure right upto the booth level it would try to evolve a set of leaders who would be projected in a manner so as to acquire a pan-Odisha image. BJP strategists agree that the party in the state is facing a crisis of leaders who can be easily recognised by people not just in their constituencies but across the state. “We need leaders with a profile. Right now we have very few of them and this becomes a major handicap during the elections. People connect easily with known leaders irrespective of whether they are themselves contesting the elections or campaigning for others,” admitted a leader.

On the contrary the BJP has some distinct advantages over its prime rival, the Biju Janata Dal. The most important advantage is that unlike BJD it is not a one-man party which runs the risk of collapsing the moment the top leader is removed from the scene. BJP is a cadre-based party and can withstand the pressure of changes at the top level. The other positive for the saffron outfit is that it is a national party with a central leadership that can come to the rescue of the state unit at the time of crisis. However, what matters most is whether the party can leverage these advantages and make full use of them at the time of elections.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)