Bhubaneswar, Feb 16: Continuing its winning spree, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trounced the Congress in Odisha panchayat elections emerging as the principal opposition party to the ruling Biju Janata Dal headed by Navin Patnayak.
According to the results of the first round polls the BJP has increased its tally from just 12 in 2012 to 71 in2017!
Elections were held for 188 seats in the first phase of the five phase election program in Odisha. The ruling BJD won 96 while the Congress just 11. Out of the total 851 seats the BJD hadwon 651, the Congress 126 while the BJP was at third position with 36 seats in its kitty.
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,” claimed BJP general secretary Arun Singh.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the party workers and thanked the people of Odisha for reposing their faith in the BJP.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections the BJP first tested success in the state with 21.88 percent polls going to its kitty while the Congress was ahead with 26.38 percent. “This prompted us to believe that we can capture the space of the principal opposition party”, said Singh.
Singh hoped that the party’s final tally would be eight to nine times of the seats it had won in the 2012 panchayat polls. This comes to around 300 of the total 853 seats.
He alleged that the official machinery was being misused and the voters’ list had been tampered with. “Otherwise, BJP’s performance would have been even more impressive”, he said.
A buoyant Arun Singh also claimed that going by the trend BJP would form the government in the 2019 Assembly elections and drastically improve its tally also in the next Lok Sabha polls.
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.
Arun Singh said that the failure of the Patnaik government in delivering on water, electricity, health and housing has earned it negative feeling of the people. Chief Minister Navin Patanaik is in power for the last 17 years but his government has failed to provide basic amenities like clean drinking water.
In the last couple of years, nearly 70 children died in the hospitals, the Japanese fever claimed 121 lives, 80 persons died due to water-borne diseases and 150 farmers committed suicide.
Electricity and road connectivity and pucca houses also remained a dream to be fulfilled for the people of the state, the BJP leader said.
Corruption was another big issue that eroded BJD’s support base. “Massive corruption is taking place down to the block level”, Singh said.
Over the years, the party has built its organizational network in the state in the recent years. It percolated to the block level covering as many as 999 blocks. The BJP's presence has increased from one block per 100 booths to one block per 32 booths now.
Besides, the BJP has also been busy turning popular opinion in its favour through various agitation programs from block level to the state level, Singh said exuding confidence to win next assembly elections in the state.