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Amit Shah holds poll strategy talks with Odisha BJP leaders

BJP President Amit Shah, who has set a target for the party to win at least 120 of the 147 Assembly seats in Odisha, kicked off closed-door meetings with the state leaders here today to fine-tune poll strategies, a senior leader of the saffron party said.

On his arrival at the Biju Patnaik International Airport here, Shah was accorded a warm welcome by senior leaders, including Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Jual Oram, and the party’s state unit chief Basant Panda.

With less than a year left for the Odisha Assembly polls and the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP chief’s visit has “spurred enthusiasm” among the party workers, who are gearing up to cross swords with the ruling BJD, which has been in power in Odisha since 2000, the leader said.

“The visit is more significant as the BJP president has set a target for the party to win at least 120 out of the 147 seats in the next Assembly polls. We are working wholeheartedly to translate his dream into reality,” he said.

The party’s state unit vice-president, Samir Mohanty, said Shah, during his day-long visit here, is set to review the organisational activities and tweak election strategies with inputs from senior state leaders.

During his discussion with state party leaders and office-bearers, Shah will review the benefits doled out under various central schemes. He will also ascertain whether any central scheme is yet to reach the grassroots level in Odisha, Mohanty said.

As part of his brain-storming sessions, Shah is slated to hold a meeting with two leaders from each of the panchayats in the 21 Assembly segments under the Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack Lok Sabha constituencies, he said.

Shah, who had last year launched a booth contact programme — ‘Mo Booth Sabuthu Majbhoot’ (My booth is the strongest one) — in Odisha, assigned the state party leaders with the task of ensuring door-to-door visit by booth workers to inform people about the pro-poor initiatives and welfare measures undertaken by the BJP-led NDA government.

His Odisha visit, which is seen as a part of BJP’s ‘look east’ policy, comes in the midst of a war of words between his party and the ruling BJD over the state government’s rejection of the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme.

The BJP president’s visit to the state follows his tour of West Bengal and Manipur. The saffron party had stated in the past that it would experience a “golden era” after it comes to power in Odisha and West Bengal.

Another senior BJP leader said Shah is trying to galvanise the organisational structure of the party ahead of the 2019 elections.

“That the BJP has identified Odisha as a “focus” state is clear from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Cuttack to address his government’s anniversary rally on May 26,” he said, adding that the party “appears” to be better placed this time to win more seats in Odisha in both the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections.

Of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha, the BJP was able to bag just one in the 2014 general elections, while the rest were won by the BJD.

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