BJP’s national president Amit Shah wrapped up his whistle stop tour to Odisha stretching barely nine hours, in a bizarre way. No high decibel barbs on the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), not even a presser. This time, the BJP boss chose to closet with his coterie of state leaders and brainstorm on strategies furtively, abhorring his usual practice of over the top rhetoric.
Lately, Shah has been frequently touring Odisha. One- Odisha is now central to BJP’s much vaunted Look East agenda alongside West Bengal and the North East. It may be worth mentioning that the BJP either on its own or through stitching alliances with compatible parties, has wrested power in six of the seven states in the North East. In West Bengal, Shah has launched an acerbic attack on Mamata Banerjee’s leadership, alleging the leader is on a shaky ground. The BJP president has also unveiled its blueprint to bag 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.
For a few weeks now, it has been the BJP’s refrain that the party’s golden era will usher in after its conquest of Odisha and Bengal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice of Cuttack as the venue for connecting with the people on his government’s achievements spanning four years is emblematic of this standpoint. Amit Shah’s previous visits to Odisha were marked by a calibrated criticism of the BJD, flagging its mammoth failures to deliver benefits to people in the remote districts. In his latest visit, Shah seems to have inverted the course and discourse of his narrative. Is this the BJP’s new fangled strategy to connect better with the electorate? Or perhaps, the BJP is taking a leaf out of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s book where the maxim- ‘The less you speak, the more you connect’ holds great salience.
Despite Modi’s unrivalled aura, BJP’s lack of connect with the grassroots in Odisha is manifestly evident. And, Shah already looks flustered. In his tete-a-tete with the state unit leaders, Shah reportedly took stock of the ground gained on central schemes reaching the intended beneficiaries. After the successful launch of ‘Mera Booth Sabse Majbooth’ (My Booth is the Strongest), the onus is on the party workers to embark on door-to-door campaigns. With less than a year left for the assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Odisha, the BJP undeniably has a lot of catch up to do. The BJD under Naveen appears as redoubtable as ever. To add to the woes of the BJP, a rejuvenated Congress risks splitting the anti-BJD votes. BJP’s Mission 120 is still on though the raucous sloganeering is now replaced by a quiet, unpublicised homework. Shah knows his party’s organisational structure needs to be beefed up considerably, and swiftly too. His tectonic shift in poll strategy should augur well for inching closer to that Mission.