From panchayat to unconquered territories: Takeaways from the BJP meet in Odisha
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath will address the national executive on Sunday.india Updated: Apr 16, 2017 11:37 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and more than 300 senior party leaders are in Odisha’s capital Bhubaneshwar for a two-day national executive meeting to firm up “Mission 2019”, the party’s plan for the next Lok Sabha election.
The choice of place is telling. The BJP finished second in the just concluded panchayat polls in Odisha, posing a serious challenge to the ruling Biju Janata Dal and pushing the Congress to a distant third.
Odisha chooses a new assembly in 2019, the same time as the national election. For the BJP, it is yet another unconquered territory ripe for taking. The Prime Minister will address the gathering on Sunday, the concluding day of the meeting, and what he says will be closely watched, not just by the party but rivals as well.
Here is what has happened in Bhubaneswar so far:
From panchayat to Parliament
The BJP’s golden era would begin only when it would have chief ministers in every state and hold power from panchayat to Parliament, BJP chief Amit Shah said on Saturday.
The party is in power in 13 states and is a part of the ruling coalition in another four, but clearly that is not enough. The BJP recently stormed to victory in the country’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, and managed to stitch together ruling alliances in Goa and Manipur despite finishing second.
It has done well in civic polls as well, recently in Odisha and Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, it made big gains at the cost of alliance partner, Shiv Sena, which is getting touchy about its turf and has not let go of any opportunity to embarrass the Centre or the state government.
The BJP is eyeing the April 23 Delhi municipal elections to make its presence felt in the Capital, where it recently snagged the Rajouri Garden seat from AAP in an assembly byelection.
Tale of 74 lotuses
They said it with flowers. A garland of 74 lotuses was presented to Shah when he landed at the Biju Patnaik international airport on Friday, the eve of the convention.
The lotus is the BJP’s election symbol and 74 is the majority mark in 147-member Odisha assembly. The BJD is in its fourth term and the BJP’s performance in the recent panchayat elections is its best ever in the eastern state, where it has been largely considered as a party with limited appeal in the tribal areas on the western border of the state.
Election is just two years away and Patnaik’s fortress could be under a threat this time. With Modi as the Prime Minister, the party is wooing the underprivileged sections. Tribals account for about 23 % of Odisha’s population and the Scheduled Castes more that 17%.
Modi and Shah have set their eyes on unconquered territories, Odisha being one of them, to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election. After its “Congress-Mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)” campaign, the BJP is looking to take on regional players.
Shah wants growth in popular support to translate into seats for the BJP in states such as West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where regional parties dominate the political landscape.
Its success in Uttar Pradesh, where it ousted the Samajwadi Party, has added to the BJP’s confidence and has pushed smaller parties into seriously thinking of putting up a joint front to take on Modi & Co.
Yogi, the poster boy
The party’s surprise choice of chief minister in Uttar Pradesh created quite a stir. The 44-year-old Yogi Adityanath, a known Hindu hardliner, has been chosen to lead UP, which send the highest number of MPs – 80—to the Lok Sabha.
An indication of Adityanath’s rise in the party are the posters inside the venue — one on the dais has Modi, Shah, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and senior leader LK Advani and another on the opposite side of the hall shows the saffron-robed Adityanath surrounded by leaders at his swearing-in ceremony.
While posters outside Janata Maidan have all 13 party chief ministers, Adityanath’s is the only one inside – quite a change in the profile of a leader who walked out of the last executive meeting after he was not allowed to speak.
He gets his say on Sunday.
All eyes on Modi
The Prime Minister will address the national executive on Sunday afternoon but he made his intent clear when he arrived in the city on Saturday.
He held a 9-km road show, from the airport to Janata Maidan, as a big crowd chanted Modi, Modi, unmindful of the sweltering heat.
Dressed in all white, Modi stood on the foot rest of his Range Rover and waved at the people who had gathered on both sides of the road, carrying lotus flowers. Defying the security cordon, Modi even got off his vehicle a couple of times, walked to the people waiting, greeted them and even shook hands with some.
(With agency inputs)