PM Modi would celebrate four years of his government by addressing a rally in the historic city of Cuttack, Odisha. Every anniversary of Modi government is celebrated with a mega rally in some part of the country addressed by the PM. In the past too, the locations have been chosen very carefully and mostly the rallies are held in places which has been hitherto neglected by the previous governments. In keeping up with this tradition, this year’s celebration will take place in Odisha. Odisha is an important state for the BJP. The rally holds immense importance for the BJP because of two main reasons. First, it is significant because it’s the last year of this government’s first term and the rally will set the narrative for 2019. This would be PM Modi’s sixth visit to the state after coming to power. PM Modi will speak to the audience about the achievements of his government in the past four years. Naveen Patnaik’s BJD has been ruling the state for the last 18 years. Most probably, PM Modi would also ask about the achievements and report card from the Naveen Patnaik’s government.
Secondly, since BJP is looking to expand its reach beyond the north and west, it is banking on Odisha heavily. BJP President Amit Shah, after the Tripura’s landslide victory, had said that the ‘Golden Period’ for the BJP party would not arrive till it manages to win in West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala. This statement is the evidence how important Odisha is for the BJP. The party has already become a force to be reckoned with, giving the Naveen government sleepless nights. BJP would want to compensate the losses of seats in its stronghold by winning few Lok Sabha seats in Odisha. Odisha too goes to the polls in 2019.
Odisha has become important for the BJP and is likely to yield electoral gains. The environment is also conducive for the BJP to spread its wings. BJP’s performance in the local body polls was spectacular. Although results were in BJD’s favour, BJP has emerged as the principal opposition and it became the second largest party in rural Odisha. According to results declared, Zilla Parishad seats demonstrated surprising results with BJD winning 473 seats and the BJP 297. In the last elections held in 2012, the BJD had won 654 seats, followed by the Congress with 128, and the BJP just 36 seats out of 854 seats. Another reason for BJP’s strong belief to gain greater clout in Odisha is the huge anti-incumbency against BJD. BJD is facing severe infighting. This has been reflected in the form of Jay Panda whose proximity towards the BJP cost him his job in the BJD. Naveen Patnaik is ruling for years without any challenge. Voters have never seen anything except BJD. Like in all states, first-time voters and young voters may identify themselves with the vibrant leadership of PM Modi more and hence vote along those lines in the future. With the likes of leaders like Union Minister of Petroleum, Dharmendra Pradhan in the state, Odisha never seemed so ready to explore an alternative and seek a change.
BJP might present Dharmendra Pradhan as the CM face in the next Odisha assembly polls. The rising tide of BJP is making BJD restless. Another important factor which indicates that the BJP would make strong inroads in Odisha in the assembly elections and Lok Sabha elections, are the fact that Odisha is plagued by big scams. On Monday, the BJP released a ‘charge sheet’ consisting of 36 charges, including big-ticket corruption cases, against the incumbent Naveen Patnaik government. Recently, the Supreme Court ordered a probe into the scam of around Rs 10, 000 crore. It is expected that the BJP might start CBI corruption probes against some leading MLAs and MPs of BJD who are involved in massive corruption cases.