Setting the Tone for Elections

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The stage is set for the general elections. Most political parties are giving final touches to their election strategies. However, chief minister Naveen Patnaik is far ahead of them. He set the tone for elections a few months ago when he called the party cadre to work hard to counter the misinformation being spread by the opposition. The party is also confident of its good work during the last five years yielding results now.

The air is thick with speculation about the announcement of elections. While most political parties seem to be waiting with bated breath for the announcement, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who is also the president of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), is all geared up for the polls.
He set the tone for the 2024 general elections some time ago when he called upon the party rank and file to effectively counter the misinformation campaign by opposition political parties as they do not have any issue to target the state government. Patnaik said this while presiding over the Biju Janata Dal’s 80-member state executive meeting at ‘Sankha Bhavan’, the regional party’s state headquarters here. The meeting was held after a gap of three years.
“The transformation of Odisha has come as a big shock for opposition parties and they do not have any issue to raise against the state government,” Patnaik said. He said, “They therefore take shelter in lies and launch a misinformation campaign against the BJD government. We have to effectively counter them from the grassroots level”.
Patnaik, who has been the president of the regional party since its inception, also asked party leaders and workers to counter the opposition parties’ “misinformation” campaign through social media. This apart, he urged the party members to take the message of development to each household.
He said people know that a thousand lies do not make a truth. “Truth will prevail, development will win and we will create a new Odisha and an empowered Odisha,” the state’s five-time chief minister said in his address to party men and women.
Appealing party men and women to rededicate themselves to the service of Odisha people, Patnaik said, “Many people say BJD is a successful regional party. But for me, BJD is most successful socio-economic movement in the country.” Patnaik said his party believed and worked for women empowerment.
Though the regional party was not happy over the manner in which the Centre handled certain Odisha related issues, the BJD state executive did not take any aggressive stand against the BJP but decided to request the central government to take required measures to overcome unpleasant situation. The party resolved that it would continue to work towards fulfilment of Odisha’s genuine demand for getting the Special Category State Status or the Special Focus State.

“The BJD state executive meeting also expressed its displeasure over the Centre’s silence on the Mahanadi water dispute with neighbouring Chhattisgarh and also the Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh. The party will continue to seek fulfillment of the state’s demand over the two issues,” said a party leader. On coal royalty, cess, railway and national highway projects and issue of inflation, the BJD meeting resolved that the Centre would be requested to take required steps.
These apart, the BJD will also raise the issues relating to its demands like waiver of GST on Kendu leaves, which adversely affect lakhs of poor people, particularly the tribals, dalits and women in the state. The regional party has been demanding complete waiver of 18 per cent GST on Kendu leaf trade.
Senior party leaders said the Centre has been adopting a step-motherly attitude towards Odisha. “The Centre has an indifferent attitude towards Odisha’s demand for a special category status. Despite our repeated demands, the Centre has not fulfilled it. Because of central apathy, we have to fight legal battle over the Mahandi and Polavaram issues. The party will raise its voice for its demands,” he said.
The party has decided to organise panchayat-level meetings to prepare the cadre for the upcoming elections. It will launch a campaign at the grassroots level to highlight the achievements of the BJD government and its development agenda being executed across Odisha. It would also hold constituency-wise training programmes for party workers and leaders at ‘Sankha Bhavan’ followed by a zonal-level training.
On the other hand the Bharatiya Janata Party cleared the air over its Odisha mission by announcing that it would go to the 2024 Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls on its own strength. It said it was capable enough to form the next government in the state without forging an alliance with any other political party. “Our survey shows that the BJP is gaining popularity in the state with youths and women joining our party in large numbers. We will win at least 80 of the 147 assembly seats in Odisha. Similarly, we are eyeing to bag at least 16 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats here,” said a senior central party leader.
Senior BJP leaders have been visiting the state to chalk out plans to dislodge the Naveen Patnaik government that has been in power for 24 years now. “The ruling BJD has been hugely unpopular in the state because of large-scale corruption, nepotism and atrocities on women. The youths and women have made up their mind to oust the BJD from power here and establish the BJP’s double-engine government,” said a BJP leader who alleged that BJD has deliberately spread a rumour about a possible coalition with the BJP only to create confusion among voters to ward off its diminishing vote base.
“The BJD has already sensed that its support base is fast eroding and the BJP is gaining the faith and confidence of the people. That’s why it is spreading rumours to create confusion among voters,” said the leader. “Everybody knows how the state is being ruled. People dislike it and they would give a befitting reply to this,” said the senior central BJP leader.

State BJP president Manmohan Samal said if the BJP came to power in the state in 2024, it would promulgate an ordinance to return the money of duped chit fund depositors to return their money in just 24 hours. “We will also try to ensure that the farmer’s income in the state is doubled and they get all sorts of required support,” said Samal.
The Congress, too, has been targeting the state government and also the BJP. The attacks were in focus during the Odisha leg of Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi who accused BJP and BJD of running a partnership in the state. Though he was more critical of BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi he made repeated references to a tacit understanding between BJP and BJD.
However, neither such allegations nor the tall promises of the BJP are likely to cut much ice with the people who are convinced that chief minister Naveen Patnaik is their saviour. They credit him with having raised Odisha’s profile at the national and international level and making every Odisha proud of their state.

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