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BJP workers worry over anti-incumbency shadow amid ongoing alliance talks with BJD

The Bharatiya Janata Party will unnecessarily shoulder the burden of anti-incumbency accrued from 24 years of Biju Janata Dal rule despite the saffron party putting in blood, sweat, and tears to rebuild itself after the 2009 break-up, said party workers voicing concerns over reported alliance negotiation.

Despite sources from both the BJP and BJD indicating significant progress in alliance negotiations, to the extent that a return seems difficult, grassroots cadres are still struggling to come to terms with this reality.

Political experts in Odisha suggested that the statements from State BJP president Manmohan Samal, as well as election co-in charges Vijaypal Singh Tomar and Lata Usendi, claiming ignorance about alliance talks might simply be an effort to moderate the growing discontent among the grassroots level cadres. All these BJP leaders said there was preparation to fight the election alone.

On Sunday, a State BJP delegation led by Mr. Samal rushed to New Delhi after being summoned by the central leadership, possibly to attend a meeting to discuss the proposed alliance and seat sharing.

“We are going to New Delhi to discuss preparation for fighting next elections,” he said.

After the alliance between BJP, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and the Jana Sena Party was sealed for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections, BJP’s central leadership, sources said, turned their focus to Odisha and set a target to close the negotiation as earlier they can.

An uneasy calm hangs over each of the 147 Assembly constituencies as aspirants from both the BJD and BJP remain uncertain about their chances of contesting the elections.

“Although we have worked hard to rise from the third position to the principal opposition since 2009, there is the possibility of the party being branded as a ruling party if the alliance is approved by the central leadership. The natural advantage of fighting the election against 24 years of incumbency would be lost,” said a BJP aspirant from Sambalpur district.

If an alliance takes place, BJP leaders and workers would be forced to defend the policies and actions of the BJD government, which they have been critical of in the past 15 years. It will be a tricky situation to be in, says a BJP worker.

While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik maintained a considerable lead as the most popular leader in Odisha, there was a noticeable undercurrent of anti-incumbency against the local BJD leadership.

Given that the BJP secured the majority of Lok Sabha seats in western Odisha districts and Mayurbhanj district, the party may be hesitant to relinquish these seats to the regional party in the event of alliance and undermine its efforts of consolidation, according to a senior party leader. In the rest of the districts, BJP hopefuls see an uncertain future.

Following the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on January 22, the party gained momentum, with four sitting MLAs and 12 former MLAs joining the BJP, sensing that the party would outperform its 2019 election results.

If a seat-sharing agreement is reached, it would severely hamper the prospects of BJP fielding candidates in all seats. There have already been talks of aspirants rebelling against the party and fighting elections independently.

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