Op-Ed: Challenges Before BJP In Odisha

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha BJP is likely to get a new president with organisational changes in the offing. While the names of some probables are already being bandied about the pertinent question to ask is what will be the challenges before then new party chief.

Though the party has emerged as the main opposition in the state, dislodging Congress from that position its performance in the state assembly elections was far from satisfactory. The party, which had just 10 MLAs in 2014, now has 23 legislators in the assembly but this is much below the target of 120 set by BJP national president, Amit Shah.

The target set by Shah was definitely a bit unrealistic considering the organisational strength of the party in the state which also lacks charismatic leaders. Still one had hoped that since Shah had set the bar high the party would achieve at least half of the target set by him.

The BJP leadership may draw solace from its Lok Sabha performance with the party’s tally in the Lower House from Odisha going up to eight from just one in 2014. However, this was mainly on account of the desire of a section of people to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of the country for the second time. Steps like surgical strike across the LOC had led to a surge in his popularity and he reaped its dividends in Odisha as well.

However, his popularity failed to translate into votes for the party in the assembly elections where chief minister, Naveen Patnaik and his party was the overwhelming favourite of the people. Odisha was a classic case of split voting with electorate in several constituencies opting for BJP in the Lok Sabha and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the assembly.

The question is why did not Modi’s appeal work in favour of BJP in the assembly elections which were held simultaneously with Lok Sabha? The Prime Minister had campaigned in the state hoping to swing votes in favour of his party. BJP president, Amit Shah had also campaigned extensively but assembly results were far from satisfactory for the party.

One important reason for this could be that BJP’s organisation in the state was not fully geared up to cash in on Modi’s popularity. In many areas it lacked good workers at the booth level. The party faced election management related problems which it needs to sort out in future.

The party also lacks charismatic leaders in the state. The fact is it does not have enough leaders with an all Odisha profile. Barring leaders like Dharmendra Pradhan, Jual Oram, Pratap Sarangi, Bijay Mohapatra and Baijayant Panda it does not have leaders who can be easily recognised by people in any part of the state.

This has been a major handicap for the party which also limits its choice of candidates during the elections. Then there are other issues like the party’s inability to penetrate the coast belt where BJD is still ruling the roost. The new party chief will have to deal with these issues effectively if BJP has to realise its dream of ruling Odisha.

(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.)