There is much speculation doing the rounds that prime minister Modi may contest 2019 polls from the Puri Parliament constituency. These speculations are not without substance. A series of events have shown the prime minister’s inclination towards the state of Odisha. This proposal first came up in April 2017 during BJP’s national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar where some Odisha BJP leaders raised the proposal of prime minister Modi contesting from the Puri constituency. However, prime minister Modi evaded the question and did not respond to it. Prime minister Modi has visited the coastal state several times throughout his tenure. He visited Rourkela in April 2015, Puri, Paradip and Bargarh during February 2016. He also visited Baleswar in June 2016 and Bhubaneswar in April 2017. On May 26 this year, prime minister visited Cuttack in order to celebrate the completion of four years of Modi government. Therefore, he sounded the poll bugle for 2019 general elections from the state of Odisha itself that goes on to show his inclination towards the state. These speculations came up earlier as well when prime minister Modi went to address a rally in Cuttack on May 26 for celebrating the fourth anniversary of Modi government.
BJP president Amit Shah has also been a frequent visitor to the state of Odisha. In fact, his efforts led to substantial results for the BJP during the 2017 Panchayat polls which might also encourage the BJP and prime minister Modi to contest from Puri and reap benefits of Modi’s popularity. As per a Daily Pioneer report, the BJP has realised that it has reached a saturation level in its stronghold states and is now looking to explore other options. The states on BJP’s radar are said to be Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. These four states possess 105 Lok Sabha seats out of which BJP had won only 6 in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. If the BJP is able to substantially increase its tally in these states, it will be able to compensate even if it loses out in any of the states where it had swept over its opponents in 2014 polls. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are linguistically obstacle states for the BJP but the BJP is already close to TRS in Telangana and a post poll alliance is on the cards. BJD also appears conducive towards the BJP on a range of issues. It has also been in an alliance with the BJP in the past.
Since prime minister Modi has unmatched popularity in almost every region of the country, the BJP is all assured of his victory. All that the party needs to do is to make sure that his victory has a statewide effect. Furthermore, contesting from the temple-city would help the BJP in Odisha-centric and nationwide campaign. Last time around, it was Varanasi, the abode of Kashi Vishwanath that helped the BJP in setting the tone and this time around it could be Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath that may help the BJP in setting the narrative. Even though BJD has come out in support of the BJP on various issues including the NRC and also supported the NDA candidate for the post of Deputy Chairman to the Rajya Sabha, given how the BJP president has been pursuing an aggressive poll strategy we can expect the BJP to go with full force as far as Odisha is concerned.