Odisha gives BJP sleepless nights

In 2019, the BJD won 112 seats to form government for the fifth time. The same year, the BJP won 8 Lok Sabha seats and 38.4% of the vote share in the state

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik in Chandikhole, Odisha last month. (ANI Photo)

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision to contest from a second seat in the upcoming assembly elections has added to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) woes. The BJP has now the twin task of not only bagging more Lok Sabha seats, but also increasing the tally in the assembly.

On Wednesday, Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) announced that he will contest from Kantanbanji in addition to his bastion Hinjili. Although this is not the first time that the longest serving CM of the state is contesting from two seats, the BJP is getting restive about the impact it will have on its performance in western Odisha.

The CM’s presence in Kantabanji is expected to give a fillip to the BJD’s performance in Kalahandi, Bargarh and Balangir — the three seats that the BJP had won in 2019 and was hoping to secure for a second term.

The BJP, which has a target of winning 370 Lok Sabha seats is pushing to increase its tally in Odisha. In 2019, the BJD won 112 seats to form government for the fifth time. The same year, the BJP won 8 Lok Sabha seats and 38.4% of the vote share in the state, while the BJD had 12 seats with 42.8% vote share.

Last minute push

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday wrote a personalised letter to all candidates of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), urging them to ensure they focus on the contrast between the Congress rule and the BJP’s governance model when reaching out to masses.

As it pushes to achieve a difficult target of winning over 400 seats, the BJP wants to buck anti-incumbency by focusing on the ‘Modi Guarantees’ that are aimed at improving the quality of life of citizens.

“Through this letter, I would like to tell the people of your constituency that this is not an ordinary election. Families across India, especially the senior members, would remember the difficulties they have gone through in the 5-6 decades of Congress rule,” Modi wrote in the letter.

Party leaders said the PM had earlier instructed the contestants and the cadre to maximise outreach and ensure no section of voters is left out.

Following the PM’s instruction, Union minister Bhupender Yadav who, is contesting his maiden election from Rajasthan’s Alwar, travelled to Kraska village in the constituency, which lies deep into the forest and is not used to contestants dropping in for canvassing. The village is 14km off the road and residents say they are unaccustomed to even the Sarpanch visiting. It was a surprise, therefore, to find the minister at their doorstep at 5.30am to hear their grievances and also seek their support.

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