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Rush To Roots

Bhubaneswar: As Odisha prepares for twin general elections of the Lok Sabha and State Assembly barely in seven months, the major parties, the governing Biju Janata Dal, opposition BJP and Congress, seem to be looking at the roots to gain strength. The parties have now started to look towards the villages which they had visited four-and-half-a year ago. The parties have also chalked out specific plans on how to impress the rural voters who hold the key to the corridors of power in the Capital City.

Governing BJD headed by Naveen Patnaik has prepared its strategy to motivate its existing voters and add some others to its vote bank. The conch party has now decided to train at least 200 persons in each assembly segment who will reach out to 1.11 lakh households across the state. While there are 4 Lakh active party workers across the state, at least 33,000 party workers will be trained before Durga Puja. Apart from candidates to contest in the elections, the BJD will raise additional groups to meet the people and explain to them how the BJD government was dedicated to protect the interest of the state.

This apart, the BJD has also decided to start its annual Padayatra program from Gandhi Jayanti Day on October 2 during which the party men and women will mingle with people and visit households highlighting Naveen Patnaik’s schemes starting from birth till death. Meanwhile, the CMO has covered all the 147 constituencies where the Top Mandarin heard and received grievances of the people thus helping the BJD to reorganize its rank and file. In fact Team CMO visit is termed as ‘most successful’ and it successfully countered ‘Anti-Incumbency’ factor, admits insiders.The state government’s programs and schemes were properly highlighted among the people through CMO Grievance meets. The party has apparently covered all the assembly segments and Parliamentary seats. In coming days, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik may like to go for district visits ahead of the 2024 elections.

The opposition BJP, which could manage to emerge as the state’s principal opposition party after 2019 elections, now focus on getting power and therefore started programs to reach at the rural voters is closing ranks with BJD.The saffron party has kicked off a massive public outreach program that will include public rallies by the party’s top leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Home Affairs, Amit Shah, Rakshya Mantri, Rajnath Singh and BJP President JP Nadda.

So far BJP National President JP Nadda, Amit Shah and several Union Ministers including party’s Odisha face Dharmendra Pradhan, have already addressed some rallies in the state while the Prime Minister is yet to meet people through Lok Sabha Pravas Program. Under this plan, the leaders visit different Lok Sabha constituencies and address people highlighting the good works done by the Modi Government at the centre and also describe how the Naveen Patnaik Administration failed on all fronts.

Though the BJP through different programs also targets the leaders in ruling BJd and claims that some of them are in constant touch with the saffron party. The BJP is hopeful that some BJD leaders of district level will join the party as they may not get the party ticket to contest the elections.

The BJP won 23 of Odisha assembly’s 147 seats in the 2019 assembly elections and emerged as the second-largest party in the state elections with 32.5% vote share while the ruling BJD which won 113 seats and a 42.7% vote share.

BJP general secretary Prithivraj Harichandan has said that the BJP will this time focus on the 13 Lok Sabha seats it lost in the 2019 elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP bagged 8 out of 21 seats while BJD got 12 and Congress managed to get one seat. This time, the BJP would focus on the seats like Puri, where the party candidate Sambit Patra lost the elections just by about 11,000 votes. The party considers that its winning prospects will certainly increase if it concentrates on rural votes.

The party has therefore set a target to reach out to all households covered by 37,606 booths in the state. Around 5 lakh BJP workers will campaign and explain to people the politics of development of the Modi government and its achievements during the last nine years. Each district unit will reach out to 250 families of influential persons. Local MPs and MLAs will reach out to intellectuals, media personnel, young achievers and people belonging to different categories and share details on the achievements of the NDA government.

Similarly, Congress also continued its mass outreach program and set to launch its ‘Ghar Ghar Congress’ during which the party workers will reach at every doorstep motivate the people saying that they are the only alternative available in the state as the BJD and BJP have joined together tough they fight against each other in elections. Meanwhile, the party also held Bharat Jodo Yatra’s anniversary. Apart from OPCC Chief Sarat Pattnayak, Congress campaign committee president Bijay Patnaik is also touring different districts and mobilizing people in favour of the party.

This apart, as part of its strategy, the Congress in Odisha had formed a group taking more than a dozen of fringe parties and left parties to work in tandem in the 2024 general elections. These parties are opposed to both the BJD and the BJP.

Anyway, all the parties are now targeting the rural votes and therefore most of the programs were rural centric to motivate the people. BJD, Congress and BJP workers are entering into villages. But none knows who will get the blessings of the villagers for the next elections. Anyway, the villagers in fact hold the key to power in Bhubaneswar.