Opposition parties in Odisha enter poll mode as BJD lays groundwork for Assembly election

Ruling BJD, which is seeking a sixth consecutive term, is organising meetings of district party units and orientation programmes on poll preparedness for 30,000 party workers

September 09, 2023 03:10 am | Updated September 26, 2023 12:13 pm IST - Bhubaneswar

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik distributes sweets to students during Independence Day celebrations in Bhubaneswar.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik distributes sweets to students during Independence Day celebrations in Bhubaneswar. | Photo Credit: PTI

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) laying the road map for strengthening the party organisation over the next few months has sparked a buzz of early polls in the State. The election to the 147-member Assembly is due before June next year.

With the BJD, which is seeking a sixth consecutive term, organising meetings of district party units and orientation programmes on poll preparedness for 30,000 party workers, the two main Opposition parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, have also entered poll mode.

At a recent meeting of the BJD’s district observers at Naveen Niwas, the CM’s residence, the party resolved to take out a padayatra in all zilla parishads from October 2. A senior BJD leader said village-level leaders have been asked to identify beneficiaries left out of government schemes.

V.K. Pandian, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary, has been touring almost all 30 districts, reviewing the implementation of development schemes and promising resolution of long-pending issues.

The government has distributed land records to people displaced by the Hirakud dam project in Jharsuguda district and carried out corrections in the land records of hundreds of people in Khordha district. It has given a fillip to thousands of women associated with self-help groups through the Mission Shakti scheme.

The government also announced ₹4,000 crore for the Ama Odisha, Naveen Odisha scheme, under which every panchayat will be granted ₹50 lakh each for improving rural infrastructure and promoting Jagannath culture (temple development).

However, the BJD is negotiating intra-party dissension. According to sources, the party is likely to field several new faces in the polls and this could create animosity among sitting legislators.

Putting up a fight

The BJP hopes to take advantage of infighting in the BJD and has been attacking the policies of the government and the powers vested in Mr. Pandian. The State party leadership is also preparing a 108-point ‘chargesheet’ against the BJD.

However, the BJP is yet to be seen speaking in one voice and has not been able to finalise a leader who can take on Mr. Patnaik. The party, according to sources, is also struggling to find suitable candidates for all 147 Assembly and 21 Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress, which has weakened organisationally over the years, is scheduled to start its ‘Ghare Ghare Congress’ door-to-door campaign from September 25. The recent induction of Bijay Kumar Patnaik, former State Chief Secretary, had injected vigour into the Congress as he tried to unite all party leaders.

According to political observers, if the Congress concentrates on winning seats in districts in southern Odisha, where the party enjoys support, it could give a tough fight to both the BJD and the BJP.

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