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‘No softening towards BJD’: Amit Shah sets 2024 Odisha road map, says BJP will form govt ‘soon’

BJP set to renew efforts to dislodge BJD in Odisha. Party had not prioritised Odisha thus far because of CM Naveen Patnaik’s equation with the Modi government.

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New Delhi: The BJP, which appeared to have toned down its aggression in Odisha, is preparing to renew its efforts to dislodge the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in the 2024 assembly elections.

Speaking to ThePrint, a senior BJP functionary said that during his two-day visit to Odisha this week, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the BJP’s chief strategist, told party leaders, “There is not going to be any softening towards the BJD, and a clear-cut message has been sent to the party cadre.”

According to the functionary, Shah said that the BJP will form the government in Odisha “soon”.

Party sources said that Shah highlighted that the BJP had formed the government in other non-Hindi states and it will in Odisha as well.

“Gujarat is a non-Hindi speaking state and the BJP has been in power there. It is also in power in Karnataka and now Maharashtra too. The party will rule Odisha soon,” a senior BJP leader said, quoting Shah, who made the remarks while attending a function Tuesday for the release of the Odia translation of the book Modi@20: Dreams Meet Delivery, which chronicles Narendra Modi’s journey from Gujarat Chief Minister to Prime Minister.

According to BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi, Shah has asked the state cadre to work hard and have a firm strategy in place for 2024.

“We have been asked to strengthen booth-level committees and Amit Shah ji emphasised the fact that if the BJP can form governments in other states, why not Odisha?” Sarangi said.

Also read: Nitish to pull off a ‘Paltu Ram’ again? Why talk of BJP-JD(U) split is gaining ground in Bihar

Road map for Odisha

According to BJP sources, the party had not prioritised Odisha thus far because of Patnaik’s equation with the Modi government, which is perceived as being largely friendly.

The BJD has supported the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on most of the bills taken up in Parliament. Moreover, state BJP leaders told ThePrint that there was a certain “ambiguity” among the leaders about the party’s road map for Odisha, something which has become clearer after Shah’s visit.

Ahead of the 2019 assembly election, the BJP had intensified its political activities in Odisha and managed to dislodge the Congress as the principal opposition party, securing 23 seats as compared to Congress’ 9 in the 147-member assembly. The BJD won 112.

The BJP’s push to emerge as a challenger to the BJD, however, didn’t disturb Patnaik’s equations with Modi.

After the 2019 elections, the BJP seemed to quieten in the state, refraining from targeting Patnaik or launching any agitations against the BJD government. As a result, it suffered a setback in civic bodies’ polls.

Party MLAs in the state have now been asked to nurture the assembly constituencies that the BJP could not win last time.

“He has asked the MLAs and MPs to take up at least three assembly constituencies and two Lok Sabha constituencies each to connect with the masses at the booth-level,” the second senior BJP leader quoted above said.

Shah also raised concerns about the performance of the party in the panchayat elections concluded in March and asked the cadre to get their act together.

Of the 852 zilla parishad zone polls, BJD won 766 seats, BJP 42, and the Congress 37.

“He was concerned that our seats have reduced considerably but the silver lining is that our voteshare has not come down drastically. From 34 per cent, our peak, it reduced to 31 per cent — it shows we still have the support of the people. The Congress has been on a slide. He asked all party workers to strengthen the party at ground level,” said the party leader.

Shah has set the target for 2024 at 120 seats, a state BJP leader told ThePrint.

“Under Amit Shah ji and J.P. Nadda ji’s leadership, the BJP has become the second-largest party in the state and it is poised to soon form the government,” said BJP national vice-president Baijayant Jay Panda.

Echoing the directions given in other states, the state unit in Odisha has also been asked to highlight Droupadi Murmu’s rise as the President of India. “The fact that she belongs to the state and has risen as a party functionary to becoming the President is something that the BJP needs to highlight among the masses,” Panda added.

With inputs from Sreyashi Dey

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: ‘Nitish betrayal, jungle raj, corruption’ — how BJP plans to use Bihar NDA collapse to go it alone


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