Perhaps conscious of the growing public perception that the party is ‘soft’ to the ruling BJD, top BJP leaders including Union Minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan exhorted party workers to wage a movement against the corrupt, anti-people Naveen Patnaik government in the state. 

The BJP leaders were addressing party workers, thinly attended here on Thursday after the formal ‘election’ of Basant Panda as the state party president. 

Panda, a sitting MLA who is relatively unknown beyond some parts of western Odisha, was unanimously elected to the post on Thursday.

There were no contests as he was the lone candidate in the fray. Significantly, top leaders like Union Minister Jual Oram, Bijay Mahapatra and Dilip Ray were not present as they were out of station. 

The formal announcement at the party office was made at the party office where a couple of hundred workers were present. 

There was muted response to the fiery speeches delivered by a host of BJP leaders like Dharmendra Pradhan, outgoing president KV Singh Deo, national secretary in charge of Odisha Arjun Singh, national party leaders S Singh, Saroja Pande, Suresh Pujari, Pratap Sarangi, veteran Biswabhusan Harichandan and others. 

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan hoped that people of Odisha will give BJP a chance to govern the state.

Odisha has been looted by the Congress and now the BJD in all these years, he charged while claiming that people were looking to the BJP to provide an alternative. Our vote share increased from 19 to 23 per cent in the last general elections in Odisha, he noted. 

People realize that BJP can change the fate of Odisha and usher in development, he said. 

Dubbing the BJD government as corrupt, Pradhan said even the NFSA, a central act , has been converted in to a BJD party programme with their workers, leaders and supporters cornering the ration cards at the expense of the poor and needy people. 

He dared CM Naveen Patnaik to release a White Paper on the twin issues of farmer suicides and the NFSA ration card distribution. 

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and other states admit to farmer suicide cases and provide compensation. But here in Odisha, the CM lives in denial and refuses to admit, let alone provide compensation, he remarked. 

Citing instances of how the Naveen Patnaik government and BJD leaders were trying to hoodwink people by claiming central schemes to be their own, Pradhan said even when he was at Rairangpur to inaugurate the AIR station, the local BJD leadership had been directed to put up banners and posters thanking the CM for the AIR station. 

The BJD is a private limited company, thundered Pratap Sarangi and called upon workers to take vow to oust the Naveen Patnaik government. 

Arun Singh said the party with 40 lakh members should target to win 100 assembly seats in the next elections while Suresh Pujari accused the BJD government of resorting to gimmicks and schemes that were making dependent on doles. 

Naveen Patnaik wants people to remain poor, he alleged.