Upbeat after impressive wins in the recent assembly polls and inroads made in Odisha local polls, the BJP national executive will meet in Bhubaneswar over the weekend to chart the course for elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly in 2019.
As Union Minister and senior state BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan announced “Odisha will be the laboratory for Modi’s pro-poor policies and schemes”, party president Amit Shah arrived in Bhubaneswar Friday for the two-day meet and was greeted with a garland of 74 lotus flowers, symbolising the half-way mark in the 147-seat Odisha assembly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to reach the city around 3 pm Saturday and a roadshow will follow. Over 300 delegates, including senior leader L K Advani, most cabinet ministers and 13 chief ministers, will sit with the Prime Minister and the party president at Janata Maidan, the meeting venue that has been named after 19th century Odia poet and philosopher Bhima Bhoi.
The gathering will highlight “achievements” of the Modi government. “Modi’s credibility is highest in Odisha. By 2019, we will be the natural ruling party in Odisha,” Pradhan said.
“The national executive meeting, the fourth in Odisha after the conclaves in 1982, 1992 and 1997, is an indicator that the party’s appetite for more victories has not come down,” another BJP leader, adding that the focus is on expanding the reach of the party in “non-traditional” areas.
“The 2019 outcome will be laid down by the Coromandel states and eastern states,” Pradhan said. The BJP wants to improve its tally in Lok Sabha and is counting on Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to raise the numbers.
After identifying around 120 seats, which they call “fresh catchment area”, the BJP leadership prepared a blueprint to strengthen the organisation in the eastern and coastal states in the run-up to 2019. In 2014, the BJP-led NDA won 72 of 80 seats in UP, 42 of 48 in Maharashtra, 31 of 40 in Bihar, all 26 in Gujarat, all 25 in Rajasthan, 25 of 28 in Madhya Pradesh, and seven of 10 in Haryana.
In contrast, the party won only two of 42 Lok Sabha seats in TMC-ruled West Bengal and one of 21 in BJD-ruled Odisha. In the southern states, it won only one of 39 in Tamil Nadu, one of 17 in Telangana, and two of 25 seats in Andhra Pradesh. The BJP does not have a single Lok Sabha MP from Kerala.
“It is the first party meeting after victories in four states and local elections in Odisha and Maharashtra. So the leaders and cadre will be energised,” BJP general secretary Arun Singh said. “In their speeches to the national executive, Prime Minister and the party president will give directions for going ahead,” Singh said.
He said the meeting is also significant as it coincides with the third anniversary of the Modi government. “So, at the venue, there will be exhibitions to showcase pro-poor initiatives of the central government. Odisha’s culture and its art forms will also be showcased,” Singh said.
The BJP emerged as the No. 2 party in the Odisha local polls, relegating the Congress to third position. The party has decided to step up the momentum with strategies that will include aggressive campaigns to encash the anti-incumbency factor against the 17-year-old Naveen Patnaik government and bring into its fold disgruntled leaders of the ruling BJD and Congress.