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Odisha panchayat elections: CM Patnaik losing grip? Rise of BJP worries Congress

Out of 188 seats that went to polls in the first phase and for which results were declared, the BJP won 71 against its last tally of 11.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2017 08:06 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Voters queue in line to vote during the second phase of Odisha Panchayat polls at Balipatana village on Feb 15.(PTI Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has trumped the Congress to emerge as the principal opposition to the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha after first round of panchayat elections.

The result for the first round — out of five — has seen the BJP increasing its tally by more than six times — 71 from the existing 11.

Out of 188 seats that went to 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. Out of total 851 seats, the BJD had won 651 seats, the Congres 126 and the BJP 36. Panchayat elections in Odisha are being held in five phases till February 21.

“With four more phases to go, we will emerge as the main opponent to the BJD. This is despite irregularities by the ruling party,” claims BJP general secretary Arun Singh.

The BJP’s had first smelled success in the Lok Sabha election when the BJP 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 unit, 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 Narendra Modi and other Union ministers have made frequent visits to the state and a lot of focus has been given on implementation of the central schemes in Odisha. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been in power for the last 17 years and this is his fourth term as the CM of the state.

The BJP feels Patnaik will gradually lose his grip over the coastal state and it needs to be prepared to benefit from it.

First Published: Feb 16, 2017 09:25 IST