Column: A Long Haul For BJP

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: For the BJP, which has emerged as the main opposition party in the state, results of the last assembly elections were not upto the leadership’s expectations. Set a goal of 120 plus seats by BJP president, Amit Shah state party leaders had hoped to win at least 50 seats, if not more. In the event they had to content themselves with 23 seats though the tally was enough to earn BJP the distinction of becoming the main opposition party, thanks to the steep decline of Congress which was reduced to a single digit party in the state assembly.

A close analysis of state assembly election results shows that whatever gains the BJP has made can be attributed to the popular disenchantment against the Congress. A large chunk of Congress voters, disillusioned with their own party which has been mired in worst kind of factionalism and infighting in the state, opted for the BJP as they had to vote against the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in any case.

So the BJP did not actually gain in popularity but benefited from the decline of Congress. If the Congress leadership succeeds in putting its house in order and can regain the confidence of its vote-bank that seems to have temporarily shifted to the BJP the saffron party may again be relegated to the third position in the state.

That certainly is not a happy position to be in for the BJP which aspires to rule the state one day. In fact, a large number of party leaders, buoyed by its improved performance in the recent elections, genuinely believe that it would ride to power in the state in 2024.

While there is nothing wrong in nurturing such hopes the BJP leadership would need to do a lot of hard work to turn them into reality. First and foremost it has to focus on expanding its organisational base and consolidating its existing vote-bank. The party also has to convince the voters who opted for it for the first time in the recent elections that its improved electoral performance—both in Lok Sabha and the state assembly—was no fluke.

Election management, especially at the booth level, has been BJP’s Achilles heel in Odisha and BJD’s forte by contrast. The saffron party needs to nurture trusted teams of workers at booth level in each constituency. Otherwise, all the good work by its top level leaders to earn the confidence of voters would go down the drain.

The party also needs to improve its leadership profile in the state with more leaders with a pan-Odisha image and appeal in its ranks. These leaders should also be able to connect with the masses easily. One of the biggest problems of BJP ( also the Congress) in the state is that it is yet to come up with a leader who can match the charisma and mass appeal of BJD supremo and chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. There has been a conscious attempt to project union minister, Dharmendra Pradhan as an alternative to Naveen but it is yet to succeed. Power in Odisha seems to be a long haul for the BJP.

(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)