The lotus is blossoming in Odisha, a coastal state that has a saffron hue for the party’s national executive meet beginning on Saturday. A garland of 74 lotuses was offered to the BJP president Amit Shah, when he landed at the Biju Patnaik international airport on Friday. It is a message. The flower is the BJP’s election symbol and 74 is the majority mark in 147-member state assembly of Odisha. More than a kilometre-long cavalcade of motorbikers escorted Shah from the airport to his hotel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be given a grander reception when he lands in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. BJP leaders are non-committal to call it a road show, but the prime minister is expected to travel from the airport to the Raj Bhawan, where he will be staying, in an open-roof SUV. Hundreds of BJP workers will be standing on two sides of the road when Modi takes that route.
“It will a reception that no other leader would have received in Bhubaneswar,” BJP general secretary Arun Singh said. The BJP’s latest poster boy, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, too, will reach on Saturday.
Odisha has never seen such BJP charge. The symbolism showcases its confidence to wrest power from Naveen Patnaik, the son of legendary Biju Patnaik and the chief minister for 17 years now. The BJP has a reason to have such faith.
The BJP came a close second to the Biju Janata Dal, and relegated the Congress to a distant third position in the recent election for panchayat bodies. This is BJP’s best ever performance in Odisha, where it has been largely considered as a party with limited appeal in the tribal areas on the western border of the state.
Odisha accounts for 21 Lok Sabha seats and votes simultaneously for the national and assembly election. Election is just two years away and Naveen Patnaik’s fortress could be under a threat this time.
With Modi as the prime minister and supreme leader of the BJP, the party is wooing the underprivileged sections of the society like never before. Tribals account for about 23 % of Odisha’s population and the Scheduled Castes are over 17%.
BJP posters across the city showcase Modi’s welfare schemes for the poor and marginalised sections of the society. “Odisha is the laboratory of Modi’s welfare measures. No other state has benefited as Odisha has under the present government,” petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.