Having reclaimed power in Uttar Pradesh after 15 years, the Bharatiya Janata Party will now turn its focus to the states where it has been traditionally weak but which are critical to determine its fortune in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as its national executive meet begins in Odisha on Saturday.
Gaining strength in the eastern states, including West Bengal, is on the top of BJP president Amit Shah’s to-do list now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, besides Shah himself are likely to give a call for pushing the party's expansion in the new territories.
After arriving in Bhubaneswar, Shah paid tributes to Dalit icon Bhim Rao Ambedkar on his birth anniversary and later joined his state party colleagues in celebrating the Odia new year. The BJP organised a motorcycle rally to welcome him.
He was also presented with a garland of 74 "victory flowers", a reference to the majority mark in the 147-seat Odisha assembly.
The BJP has also planned a virtual road show for Modi when he arrives in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. He is likely to be greeted at several places on his road travel from airport to Raj Bhavan, where he will stay.
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan called Odisha a "laboratory" of the pro-poor policies of the Modi government as he hit out at the state government a day before the executive begins.
Modi will also felicitate the members of 16 families associated with an 1817 rebellion in Odisha against the British rule.
Continuing with the BJP's Dalit outreach, the party has named the venue of its executive meet after noted Odia poet and reformer Bhima Bhoi. Dalits constitute over 17 per cent of the state's electorate and have never been traditional voters of the saffron party, which is now wooing them aggressively.
Internal squabbles in the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal and continued decline of the Congress have presented the saffron party with an opportunity for growth in the state and its top leadership is likely to to pull out all stops to woo the voters.
Coming against the backdrop of a massive saffron sweep in Uttar Pradesh besides a decent show in recent bypolls, the meeting of party leaders from across the country is set to fete Modi and Shah’s leadership, and project the victories as a popular endorsement of the central government, sources said.
IMAGE: Odisha BJP President Bsanta Panda and senior leader K V Singhdeo welcome party national president Amit Shah on his arrival at the airport in Bhubaneswar. Photograph: PTI Photo