Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is continuing its winning spree in Odisha, replacing the Congress as the No.2 party in the eastern coastal state. The party has made big gains in the second round of panchayat election, improving its tally from the existing 3 to 55.
Voting for 174 seats took place in the second round on Wednesday. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) remained the No.1 party winning 92 out of 174 seats, while the Congress stood a distant third with just 15 seats.
“We are not surprised, but out rivals certainly are,” BJP general secretary in-charge of Odisha, Arun Singh told HT. “These elections cover 85% of Odisha, mostly rural areas, and shows the rise of the BJP.”
Out of 188 seats that went to the polls in the first phase and for which results were declared, the BJP won 71 against its last tally of 11. The ruling BJD won 96 and the Congress just 11.
In the last polls, out of the total 851 seats, the BJD had won 651, the Congress 126 and the BJP 36. Panchayat elections in Odisha are being held in five phases till February 21.
This is first major gains for the saffron party in Odisha, a state which it ruled in alliance with the BJD till 2009 when Naveen Patnaik decided to walk out of the alliance following disagreement over seat sharing. The two parties had contested the 1998, 1999 and 2004 elections together, also sweeping the state polls in 2000 and 2004.
The BJP’s had first smelled success in the Lok Sabha election when it polled 21.88% votes and closely trailed the Congress that got 26.38%.
“We realised there is an occasion to capture the main opposition’s space,” Singh said.
As BJP chief, Amit Shah had grand ambitions to expand in the coromandel states – Odisha being one of them. A plan of action was charted out and the number of mandal units was doubled from 445 to 999. More people joined the party organisation. Internal election was conducted in one go and office-bearers put in place in no time.
“We decided to focus on smaller units, without wasting time on grand events at the state level,” Singh elaborated.
Each mandal unit was given the task of holding a demonstration against state government policies every month. An event was planned at the district level every three months and at the state-level after every six months.
Prime Minister Modi and Union ministers have made frequent visits to the state and a lot of focus has been given on implementation of central schemes in Odisha. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been in power for the last 17 years and this is his fourth term as CM.