During the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, when BJP swept to power in the country, it had managed to win win just one seat in the state and ten during the Assembly polls same year. However, two and half years later, the party has managed to turn table on BJD, which is in power in the state since 17 years. The BJP won 306 of the 851 zilla parishad seats during the panchayat elections held recently, which is almost ten times than in 2012. It has won the majority of Zila Parishad seats in the districts of Sambalpur, Bargarh, Bolangir and Deogarh, and tribal-dominated districts of Malkangiri and Mayurbhanj, once considered BJD bastions.
So far, the BJP has secured a majority in the zila parishad in eight of the 30 districts of Odisha. It is hoping to obtain a majority in three more, reportedly with some backdoor help from local Congressmen. Even as the final results are yet to be announced, BJP is learnt to have grabbed around 190 seats from BJD and about 60 from the Congress. The results seemed to have surprised state chief minister and BJD leader Naveen Patnaik, who during a meeting with party MLAs said that BJP’s rise was a warning signal. Some senior BJD leaders like Suryo Patro alleged that BJP and Congress forged a tactical alliance to defeat BJD in several places.
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Few are aware of the huge organisational work done by the party in the state in the last two years. BJP added 30 lakh new members through a missed-call programme and was able to appoint booth-level workers in at least 35,000 of the 92000 booths during the panchayat elections. In last one year, BJP organised at least 50,000 meetings in Odisha. “Our workers distributed leaflets at these meetings stressing how a poor man was forced to pay bribes to enjoy benefits of Indira Awas Yojana or old age allowance. While Congress leaders were busy fighting each other, we were busy projecting ourselves as an alternative to BJD,” a party leader was quoted as saying by the party.