Amit Shah begins BJP’s ‘Mission Odisha’ from CM Naveen Patnaik’s turfUpdated: Jul 04, 2017 18:24 IST
BJP president Amit Shah is in Odisha to deliver a message to chief minister Naveen Patnaik: That the bonhomie the Bharatiya Janata Party has with his Biju Janata Dal at the Centre will have no bearing on the saffron party’s expansion plans in the coastal state.
And the BJP chief has chosen Patnaik’s turf this time to make his intentions clear ahead of the elections to the 147-seat Odisha assembly and Lok Sabha scheduled to be held in 2019.
Shah, who reached the state on Monday night for a three-day visit aimed at reviving the party’s infrastructure at the grassroots level in the eastern state, will spend Tuesday in Ganjam, the district in which Patnaik’s Hinjili assembly constituency falls. BJP workers will give Shah a grand reception on the way to Ganjam.
“The visit is part of Shah’s 110-day countrywide tour to strengthen the party,” party’s chief spokesperson Anil Baluni said.
The party chief will embark on a door-to-door campaign at Hugulapata village of Kukudakhandi Block in Ganjam district and later hold a meeting with booth workers in the same village. Shah will meet five families in the village and discuss various welfare programmes implemented by the Narendra Modi government. As part of the party’s Dalit outreach programme, he will also eat lunch with a Dalit family.
A grand reception is also planned at Berhampur, his second stop of the day. Shah will address booth workers conference from four districts at Berhampur. Shah will be in Jajpur on Wednesday to offers prayer at the historical Biraja Temple. Similar door-to-door campaigns are also planned at Jajpur and Dhauli.
These exercises will be followed by a meeting of booth level workers. On Thursday, he will meet BJP zila parishad members, block presidents and vice-presidents in Khurda district and wind down his trip by meeting senior party leaders at the state office.
“He will review the programmes being carried out under Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya birth centenary Karya Vistarak Yojana in Odisha,” Baluni said.
The party, which is on a high after winning 297 of the 851 zila parishad seats in February’s panchayat polls, has booth-level workers in just about one-third of the 92,000-odd polling booths in the state. With Shah’s programme, it now aims to kickstart the process of recruiting booth-level workers before they take on the BJD late next year.
“Odisha is one of the states we aim to win in 2019,” the party’s general secretary Arun Singh said. “The mass contact programme is aimed at strengthening the party at the booth level.”
Shah would visit the state again in August to connect with booth-level workers and strategise the plan for strengthening the party.
State BJP vice-president Sameer Mohanty said Shah’s three-day programme would send a message that strong booths would ensure the development of Odisha.
“When the party’s national president visits booth-level workers in their homes and lunches with them it would send a clear signal about the party’s intention of taking everyone along. The aim of the programme is to find out how far the support rendered by the PM Modi in last three years has reached the people of the state,” said Mohanty.
The election for the Odisha assembly and the Lok Sabha were held simultaneously. In 2014, the BJP polled 46-lakh plus votes (21.88%) for the Lok Sabha and nearly 39 lakh votes (17.99%) for the state assembly. This was a jump from its performance in 2009 — about 27 lakh votes with a 15.05% share in the assembly.
At its conclave in Odisha in April, Shah had set a target of winning those 120 Lok Sabha seats that the BJP never won.
He asked party workers to dedicate themselves to booth level activities. The party claimed more than four lakh party workers in the country have variously pledged to give 15 days, six months or one year as full-timers to strengthen the party at the booth level.
The ruling BJD played down the impact of Shah’s trip and the state food supplies and cooperation minister Surya Patro said the visit may enthuse the BJP workers only temporarily.
“Odisha is still solidly behind Naveen Patnaik,” he said.
According to political analyst Rabi Das, despite its relative success in the panchayat polls, the BJD is still a much stronger party.
“The problem with BJP is that there is no leader in the party who can stand up to Naveen Patnaik. It’s an unequal fight as of now,” said Das.