With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah's visit to Odisha due on February 15 -- his third this year -- the saffron party appears determined to hit the ground running in the state, where the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections could be conducted simultaneously in April-May. Congress President Rahul Gandhi will also hold two meetings in Odisha on Wednesday. He will address public meetings at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district and at Rourkela in Sundargarh district, said senior Congress leader Bhakta Das.
This will be Gandhi's second visit to the state this year. As the BJP could win only one Lok Sabha seat out of 21 in 2014, the rest was won by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), it would have to work harder this time. The BJP's vote share of 21.50 per cent too was way behind the BJD's 44.10 per cent and 26 per cent of the Congress.
But the party cadre this time appears confident of giving a tough fight to the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD, which has been in power in the state for the last 19 years. Strengthening of the organisation at the grassroots level and anti-incumbency will help the BJP make gains in the election, feel party workers.
After back-to-back public meetings in the state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah will address the party workers at Sambalpur on February 15, said state BJP chief Basant Kumar Panda on Tuesday. Earlier, Shah had addressed a meeting at Salepur in Cuttack district on January 29 and the BJP Scheduled Tribe Morcha's two-day national convention in Puri on February 3.
Shah criticised the Odisha government for failing to develop the state despite being rich in natural resources. Panda said around 60,000 booth-level workers from four Lok Sabha constituencies -- Dhenkanal, Bargarh, Sambalpur and Sundargarh -- will attend the February 15 meeting. Chief Minister Patnaik too is on a whirlwind tour of the state to keep the two national parties at bay. On Tuesday, Patnaik inaugurated several projects in the Nabarangpur district.
(With inputs from agencies.)