Odisha BJP has to learn lessons from Bengal poll

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Odisha BJP has to learn lessons from Bengal poll

Wednesday, 05 May 2021 | SRIKANTAk TRIPATHY | BHUBANESWAR

Putting an end to all speculations, the TMC has got a landslide victory in West Bengal, where the main fight was between the TMC led by CM Mamata Banerjee and the BJP led by PM Narendra Modi.

Though the BJP had unleashed a high octane campaign with Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Saha leading from the front and claimed to wrest Bengal from the two-time-CM Banerjee, the results have taken the lid off the weakness of the national party’s organisation in the State.

The Assam victory is solace, but nonetheless the BJP’s hope of acquiring eastern India, including Odisha, has fallen like ninepins with the setback in WB.

Though the Bengal election was being watched by the whole nation, it had much relevance for Odisha where the BJP has emerged as the principal opposition and it targets to dislodge the BJD from power in 2024.

However, the Odisha BJP has tomake much self-assessment in view of the its drubbing in WB before it jumps into the electoral battle with the BJD led by five-timer CM Naveen Patnaik, who has so far proved his exceptional skill in political strategy by winning elections back-to-back since 2000.

The Congress is getting weaker year after year in Odisha; and if anything, its dismal performances in the last two by-polls in Jagatsinghpur and Baleswar have proved to be the last nail for the party. The campaign for the Pipili by-election which was deferred due to the Covid spread, already showed how the Congress cut a sorry figure.

The campaign lacked verve and energy. The PCC has failed to get over its old handicaps of internal dissent and feud and maintain discipline and unity notwithstanding changes in the PCC chief and State Pravari over last many years. But what is important to be seen here is that the Congress’ space is largely occupied not by the BJP but by the BJD.

In Bengal, the BJP has increased its tally from just three seats in 2016 to 74 in 2021. But unlike in Odisha, the Bengal BJP is swelling its vote percentage at the cost of the Congress and the Left. The Odisha BJP has to remember this.

The 2017 panchayat elections results were quite promising for theOdisha BJP. Especially in the western Odisha, it did a stellar performance by winning a maximum of the ZP seats. This had not just created optimism for the party’s rank and file but threw a veritable challenge to the BJD. However, while the BJD managed to stem the rot by its sweeping victory in the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP could not carry the momentum despite the

whirlwind campaigning by Modi and Shah and many CMs and other prominent national leaders. While Shah had launched a “120+ mission” for the BJP in Odisha, the party had to remain satisfied with just 23 seats.

The confusion over leadership in Odisha BJP, especially its CM candidate, has been one of its drawbacks. The party has yet to focus on a pan-Odisha leader, who can be an alternative to the BJD’s Naveen Patnaik.

This apart, the party has not been able to even have a toehold in the coastal Odisha politics. Its organisation in rural Odisha is still not of any match with the BJD’s. The BJP has to strengthen its grassroots base.

The BJP can capitalise on the failures of the governance and massive corruption in political and bureaucracy levels in the BJD dispensation. There is massive resentment among the rural populace against the BJD over several issues like PC system, irregularities in several pro-poor schemes, paddy procurement

mess, distress among Block Grant teachers and other contractual employees and inadequate healthcare. But it seems the BJP has yet to do much to tap anti-incumbency to its advantage.

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