Op-Ed: BJP’s Mission 120 in Odisha Still On

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Despite winning just 23 assembly seats in Odisha the BJP remains determined to pursue its Mission 120 Plus in the state which is crucial to its growth plans in eastern India. Senior party leaders have made it clear that though they are disappointed with the results of assembly elections there is no change in their mission to capture power in the state.

Party strategists say that the top leadership is happy with BJP’s Lok Sabha performance in the state with the number of its seats going up from one in 2014 to eight now. While the party claimed all the five Lok Sabha seats in western Odisha, its traditional stronghold, it was also able to make inroad into the coastal belt with victories on Bhubaneswar and Balasore seats. The Mayurbhanj seat in northern Odisha was also bagged by the party.

The wins in Bhubaneswar and Balasore hold special significance for the party as lotus has never before bloomed on the Odisha coast in Lok Sabha polls. This will help the party expand its base in the state’s most politically important belt where it has been lagging behind the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Even Congress, which was decimated in the elections this time, had fared better than BJP in the coastal region in the past.

For the BJP it is imperative to penetrate deeper into the coastal belt because it controls the politics of the state. No party with ambitions of ruling the state can afford to ignore the coast. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had chosen Cuttack, popularly known as the gateway to coastal Odisha, to present the four-year report card of his first government in 2018 primarily to ensure that his party gains traction in the region.

Ever since the party has been working systematically to increase its footprints in the coastal belt. Its ambitions in the region have, however, been stymied by the dearth of popular leaders capable of striking a rapport with the masses. It was with a view to overcoming this shortcoming that on the eve of the last elections BJP sought to create a hype about the possible candidature of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi from Puri, a prestigious coastal seat.

In the event, however, the party fielded its national spokesperson, Sambit Patra from the seat. The hard working Patra, who is equally good at theatrics, gave his BJD rival, Pinaki Mishra a run for his money. The narrow win of Mishra from the seat was like a moral victory for Patra and his party which managed to wrest the Puri assembly seat from the BJD.

Equally spectacular has been the victory of BJP candidate, Aparajita Sarangi from Bhubaneswar and Pratap Sarangi, currently a minister of state in the Modi government, from Balasore. Though the party did not fare well on the assembly seats in these Lok Sabha constituencies it is confident that things will be much better next time.

For the BJP strategists, who are already drawing the plans for the next elections, the most important achievement has been the party’s emergence as the main opposition party in the state by dislodging the Congress from that position. For them the next logical step would be to dislodge the BJD as the ruling party. This is possible only if they treat Mission 120 as a realistic target and strive to achieve it.

(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.)