Odisha: Third phase of polling on May 25 with BJP eyeing a breakthrough

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had never focused so much on Odisha as it has been doing in the 2024 elections as the party hopes to wrest the power from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). 

Odisha: Third phase of polling on May 25 with BJP eyeing a breakthrough
Source: IANS

Bhubaneswar, May 24 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had never focused so much on Odisha as it has been doing in the 2024 elections as the party hopes to wrest the power from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). 

After the talks on alliance with BJD failed to materialise, the BJP resorted to an aggressive campaign mode in Odisha with party heavyweights from across the country visiting the state almost every day.

The third phase of polling in Odisha -- for Lok Sabha and Assembly -- will be held on Saturday (May 25).

Hardly a day passed without any BJP star campaigner and local heavyweights of the party addressing a poll rally in Odisha in the last couple of weeks.

Leading the campaign from the front is Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has so far addressed several poll rallies and also held massive roadshows in different parts of the state.

PM Modi has so far visited thrice to Odisha and addressed seven massive rallies at different constituencies of the state this month.

He has also led two massive roadshows at Bhubaneswar and Puri on May 10 and 20, respectively.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the state again on May 29 for election campaigning.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also visited the state several times for election campaigning in the last few weeks.

HM Shah also held a massive roadshow at Cuttack on May 15.

Other senior leaders who have so far campaigned in the state include Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP national president J.P. Nadda, former Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Union Minister Giriraj Singh, cine stars Hema Malini and Arun Govil (who played the role of Lord Ram), and Chief Ministers of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh -- Himanta Biswa Sarma, Yogi Adityanath and Vishnu Deo Sai, respectively.

"Though PM Modi and other central leaders had visited the state during the previous elections as well, yet the campaign by BJP was never as intense in the past as it is this time," said veteran journalist Rajaram Satpathy.

Not only has the frequency of visits to the state by senior BJP leaders increased but also the central leaders of the party, who used to avoid targeting the BJD government in the past, are now hitting out at the ruling party in the harshest possible way, a political analyst said.

The BJP strategists have weaponised several local issues to wrest power from BJD, aiming to end the nearly 25-year-old rule of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Major issues raised by BJP leaders during their campaign include a threat to Odisha Asmita (self-identity), missing keys of Ratna Bhandar, the treasury of Jagannath Temple at Puri, demolition of Mutts during Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor Project, massive corruption and hijacking of the Central government schemes by BJD government, etc.

Among all the major poll planks, a threat to Odia Asmita, 'Bhumiputra (son of the soil) vs outsider' and Ratna Bhandar issues have taken centerstage in the election campaigning in the state.

It is pertinent here to mention that V.K. Pandian, the Tamil Nadu-born former Odisha cadre IAS officer, has emerged as the second most powerful leader in the ruling party and a probable successor to CM Naveen Patnaik.

According to analysts, the BJP leadership has been seeing it as a golden opportunity to strike an emotional chord with the voters by raking up the issue of threat to Odia Asmita, Odia culture, literature and language with an 'outsider' VK Pandian taking over the reins of government post elections.

The party's top brass have unleashed a virulent attack against the ruling dispensation by constantly raking up the issue of threats to Odia culture, language and literature.

All the BJP leaders, from PM Modi to Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, are assuring the voters in Odisha that if the BJP comes to power, a Bhumiputra will become the Chief Minister, not an 'outsider'.

The missing keys of Ratna Bhandar is one of the major issues being raised in every election rally by the BJP leaders.

PM Modi stated during one of the public rallies in Kandhamal that the keys of Ratna Bhandar have been missing for the last six years.

He said the devotees of Lord Jagannath and the people of Odisha have the right to know what happened to the keys.

"Why were duplicate keys made? Is the Ratna Bhandar opened during the night using duplicate keys? Are the ornaments of the Lord stolen? The government set up a Commission but its report has not been made public yet," said PM Modi.

The party promised to make public the commission report on the Ratna Bhandar and unravel the truth behind the missing keys issue as soon as the BJP comes to power in the state.

How much the party has succeeded in swaying the voters in its favour with the help of these issues will only be ascertained with the declaration of results on June 4.