With only two out of its 10 MLAs coming from the coastal Odisha, the saffron party has been trying hard to push deeper into the region which accounts for the largest number of assembly seats.
The state BJP is in an upbeat mood. The hugely successful rally of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi at Cuttack has filled the party cadres with a new energy, making them hopeful of making a decisive foray into the coastal belt. The party as yet does not have much of a presence in the region.
“Cuttack is the gateway to coastal Odisha. It is also the political heartland of the state. The large turnout at the Prime Minister’s rally was an indication of his increasing popularity in this region. It has generated the right kind of momentum for us to take advantage of and make our presence felt on the coast,” said a senior BJP leader.
With only two out of its 10 MLAs coming from the coastal belt the saffron party has been trying hard to push deeper into the region which accounts for the largest number of assembly seats. “For us to have a pan-Odisha image it is important that we get a strong foothold on the politically important coast. Currently we have only two legislators from this belt while eight others come from western Odisha which has been our traditional stronghold,” said a senior BJP leader.
The leader admitted that the choice of Cuttack as the venue of Prime Minister’s rally to mark the fourth anniversary of his government was both symbolic and a tactical move by the party. “The city, which happens to be the old capital of the state, is the political nerve centre of the coastal belt which represents power. The rally was a test for us and its success has blown the myth that coastal Odisha is the stronghold of ruling BJD,” said the leader.
Most BJP leaders agreed that Modi’s visit has generated the right kind of momentum for the party which would leverage it with an eye on the next polls. “In the wake of Prime Minister’s rally the target of 120 plus assembly seats set by our party president, Amit Shah seems achievable. We only need to implement the right kind of strategy with total dedication,” said Purohit.
However, a senior ruling BJD leader dismissed BJP claims as “tall talk” and ridiculed the party’s attempt at making a dent into his party’s vote bank in the coastal belt. “Let them be realistic. Dreaming during the day is not good for health,” he remarked sarcastically.
However, BJP leaders said they were hopeful and pointed to the success of its Mahila Morcha’s recent state-wide campaign to highlight rising incidence of crime against women even as four cases rape of minor girls.
The BJP women’s wing had launched the 11-day Mahila Suraksha Yatra from seven different places, each being a Devi peetha (the seat of a female deity). While the Mahila Morcha chief, Pravati Parida had set out with her band of supporters from the famous Mangala temple in Kakatpur in Puri district other party leaders led groups of slogan shouting workers from Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Cuttack, Bolangir, Ganjam and Khurda districts.