From ‘sign board’ party to forming govt: The four-decade-long journey of BJP in Odisha

The party won 36 and 32 seats out of its share of 68 seats in the two elections respectively.
BJP flag used for representational purpose only.
BJP flag used for representational purpose only.Photo| PTI

BHUBANESWAR; It was a long journey for the saffron party to form government on its own and this opportunity came after 15 years of constant struggle to dislodge the mighty BJD led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Tagged as a ‘sign board’ party by veteran leader and former chief minister Biju Patnaik, the BJP tasted its first electoral success in 1985 with the election of Prasanna Patnaik to Odisha Assembly from Kamakhyanagar constituency in Dhenkanal district.

Two MLAs of the party were elected to the 10th Assembly (1990-95). Jual Oram was first elected from Bonai Assembly seat while late Bikram Keshari Deo of the Kalahandi royal family was the other BJP MLA from Junagarh. Former minister Arabinda Dhali entered the Assembly through a by-election from Malkangiri, taking the number to three in a House of 147 seats. The party improved its tally to nine in 1995 election.

The BJP’s fortune changed after it sew an alliance with the BJD in 1998 and formed a coalition government with the regional party in 2000 and 2004. The party won 36 and 32 seats out of its share of 68 seats in the two elections respectively.

As the BJD snapped ties with it just before the 2009 elections, the BJP struggled for existence as its number in the Assembly went down to only six which improved marginally to 10 seats in 2014 and 23 in 2019.

This humongous victory for the BJP is largely attributed to the anti-incumbency that had set in against the BJD government and the public antipathy to the bureaucratic manner in which the government was run by bureaucrat-turned-politician VK Pandian.

After realising that no amount of attack on CM Naveen was denting his image and even proving to be counter productive, the saffron party changed its tack. A well thought-out strategy was devised to create a narrative that Pandian is playing with the Odia pride and he will be the political heir apparent of Naveen after this election. All the central leaders and star campaigners launched a carpet bombing over the well-orchestrated theme of ‘Odia Asmita’ which paid off.

As the stage is set for the BJP to form the first government in the state on June 10 as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the credit for the party’s success goes to the large number of unseen booth-level workers who meticulously executed the poll strategies prepared by a group of leaders deputed from the Centre.

With the focus firmly on Odisha Assembly election, chosen leaders from different states with strong RSS background and proven track record on organisational skills were deputed to the state. These leaders worked behind the scene while RSS foot soldiers lent support by executing the plan with clinical precision through booth-level workers. And the result is there for everyone to see.

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The New Indian Express