PM Narendra Modi at the BJP's National Executive Meeting in Bhubaneswar.
Bhubaneswar: With one eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha General elections, and another firmly set on Odisha, the BJP's National Executive meeting started in Odisha capital Bhubaneswar on Saturday to draw up a strategy to increase its political footprint through the country across all levels - "from panchayat to parliament" - and kick-start its campaign for Odisha. Leading the discussions are BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi who drove down from the airport in a Range Rover sports utility vehicle to a rousing welcome. At times, PM Modi half-opened the door to stand on the SUV's stepping board to wave at the cheering crowds. Sometimes, he just got off the vehicle to greet enthusiastic party workers who had lined up along Bhubaneswar's arterial roads.
Here are the 10 points from the meeting:
BJP president Amit Shah told the 350-odd party leaders including Chief Ministers from 13 BJP-ruled states that this wasn't the party's golden age as many people suggested it was. "I say it will be when the BJP will have governments in other states such as Kerala, Bengal and Odisha," Mr Shah said, advising them against letting the back-to-back victories make them complacent.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who briefed reporters about Mr Shah's speech at the closed-door meeting said Mr Shah asked the party to resolve to come to power not just in every state, but also across all levels of governance, from panchayat to parliament.
Counting the recent victories in assembly elections as a rejection of the politics of casteism, dynasty and appeasement, Mr Shah said the party's tally in Uttar Pradesh had redefined what a big victory means. Earlier, analysts considered a two-third victory as big, now it is three-fourths, he said, adding that the UP results also demonstrated that the BJP's spectacular win in the 2014 elections wasn't a one-time performance.
The BJP conclave also hit back at its rivals who had taken to blaming electronic voting machines for their defeat in the assembly elections, accusing the losers of hiding behind EVMs and pointing fingers at the Election Commission.
All party leaders have been told to spend at least 15 days with workers at the local levels in their respective states to prepare for the next round of polls. Shah has already chalked out his programme; he will spend 95 days meeting booth level workers till September this year.
For now, it is Odisha that is high on the party's priority list and at the heart of the BJP's "Look-East" policy. Just one of the 21 members that Odisha sends to parliament is from the BJP. In the assembly, the party has just 10 lawmakers.
It is also the state where the party believes that it is within striking range. It won elections to 300 panchayats in February, as compared to the ruling Biju Janata Dal's total of 400. The ruling BJD had been an ally of the BJP but the pact ended in 2009.
Like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha is another state where the BJP is hoping to deepen its roots in the state on the back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity. In the words of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, the public faith in the PM was "at a Himalayan top".
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav called the party conclave a very "important meet" to discuss the 2019 parliament elections & assembly elections in states later this year including those in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was dismissive of the BJP's hopes of coming to power in the next election. "Least bothered ... I am not at all worried," Mr Patnaik, who is also the BJD president, said later.