The BJP got a shot in the arm ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and the assembly elections in the state of Odisha. As the elections approach, the BJP would like to strengthen itself in the states where it has not enjoyed much popularity traditionally. Odisha is one such state. The former BJD MP Baijayant Jay Panda has reportedly joined the BJP. Panda was once seen as one of the leading parliamentarians from the Naveen Patnaik led BJD. However, he fell out with the party leadership and now he has joined the BJP.
In 2014, the BJD had won from 20 out of 21 parliamentary constituencies in the state and the BJP had to content itself with merely one seat from the state. However, a former BJD MP joining the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls is just the kind of boost that BJP needed. Jay Panda may not be a mass leader or crowd puller but he does hold considerable influence. Panda was a Rajya Sabha MP till 2014 before being elected as a Lok Sabha MP from the Kendrapa constituency. As per the Indian Express, the BJP workers described him as a “fairly decent” MP. Therefore, he enjoys considerable popularity in and around the Kendrapa Lok Sabha constituency. Therefore, his inclusion in the BJP would help the BJP not only in Kendrapa but also the parliamentary constituencies surrounding it.
What he lacks in hard poll numbers, Panda makes up for by being a non-controversial political leader and the kind of intellectual that the youth idolizes. Panda was welcomed into the BJP fold by Union Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan. He said, “I welcome my friend Baijayant Jay Panda into the BJP family. His popularity and connect with the Odia youth will further strengthen the surge of the BJP in Odisha.” Therefore, the BJP is expecting to cash on the pro-youth image of Panda. The party understands that Panda’s joining the BJP would imply that Panda was disenchanted with the BJD and he chose the BJP over BJD. This gives the BJP a pro-development and pro-youth image which can rally the Odia youth in its favour.
Panda’s entry will also prove to be helpful for the BJP because his wife heads OTV, the most popular TV news channel in Odisha. As per BJP workers, “With higher penetration of television in Odisha compared to say, a decade ago, he is a useful ally in the state.” It is clear that Baijayant Jay Panda brings a lot on the table with his popularity and connect with the youth and his image of a non-controversial politician. BJP is now better equipped to make inroads in Odisha in the upcoming polls.