Op-Ed: What BJP Needs To Do In Odisha To Find A Winning Formula

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The BJP in Odisha has achieved its first objective of replacing the Congress as the main opposition party in the state. But the party cannot be satisfied with its performance in the recent elections. While its Lok Sabha tally went up to 8 from one in 2014 it could win only 23 assembly  seats which meant an increase of 13 seats compared to  the last elections  but it fell far short of the target of 120 plus seats set for the party by its national president, Amit Shah.

The results made it clear that Shah was either being a bit too ambitious in setting such a target for its Odisha leaders or was simply trying to boost cadre morale by setting the bar high. It was obvious that the party did not have the required organisational strength to meet such a target. Its deficiencies started coming to the fore as the election progressed with candidates in some areas failing to find reliable workers to manage booths.

The top party leadership must have realised this after review of the results and has now launched an exercise to strengthen the organisation in the state. The visit of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan is part of this exercise.

But BJP in Odisha needs to address many other issues before it can hope to come anywhere near Biju Janata Dal(BJD) which is state’s top political party being led from the front by its president and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. The most important of these issues is finding a clutch of leaders with a pan-Odisha appeal.

This has been the Achilles heel of the party in the state. It has a pathetic dearth of leaders with a pan-Odisha profile, leaders who can be easily recognised and command respect of people. They need not necessarily contest elections but should have some charisma and should be able to strike a chord with the masses. Such leaders are an asset for any party and BJP needs them badly at the moment.

It is equally important for the party to take up issues which had once made it a major political force in western Odisha where its performance was not upto the expectation in the recently concluded assembly elections.   Even the party’s victory on the five Lok Sabha seats in the region was primarily on account of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s popularity and not because people were satisfied with the performance of state BJP leaders.

The truth is during the period that the party ruled the state in tandem with the Biju Janata Dal it made many compromises on issues which it had once campaigned for fiercely.   For example as the coalition partner of BJD in the state it failed to raise effectively the issue of western Odisha’s under-development with focus on its poverty, recurrent droughts and starvation deaths. It even failed to register its protest over  a toothless Western Odisha Development Council (WODC) which  enjoyed no real financial autonomy and did not come upto the expectations of the people of the region. It is important for the party to revive its old agenda in the state to be able to retrieve the lost ground and  position itself strongly to challenge the BJD.

(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.)