NEW DELHI, Jan 16: Amidst the fanfare over the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh on January 22, Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal is playing on another religious card to take on the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Hitherto a member of the NDA, the Odisha chief minister and the ruling BJD chief Naveen Patnaik have recently severed his alliance with the BJP and has decided to maintain equidistance from both the BJP-led NDA and the opposition INDIA bloc.
A religious and political spectacle is unfolding in Odisha orchestrated with precision by Mr Patnaik and his BJD with big plans for the unveiling of the Jagannath Heritage Corridor, a strategic move by the BJD to not only boost religious sentiments but also to outmanoeuvre the BJP in the state.
The state government has invested over ₹ 4,000 crores under the ‘Ama Odisha, Nabin Odisha’ scheme aimed at transforming Puri’s infrastructure. Central to this colossal project is the Shree Setu, a 2.8 km bypass. This bypass promises to reduce travel time to the Jagannath temple from the state capital Bhubaneswar by a significant hour.
The crown jewel of the initiative, however, is the ₹ 1,943 crore heritage corridor around the 12th-century Jagannath temple. This architectural marvel features a 75-meter heritage corridor, designed with a green buffer zone, a tree-lined outer path, and a public convenience area.
Away from Ayodhya, Odisha is prepping for a spectacle of its own – a fleet of 8,000 vehicles embellished with images of Lord Jagannath and Chief Minister Patnaik, traversing the length and breadth of the state. The BJD, eying a sixth consecutive term, is leaving no stone unturned to secure its dominance in Odisha, with the BJP close on its heels. In the last elections, the BJD lost eight of the 21 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP, a setback that Mr Patnaik is determined to reverse.
Many critics argue that the BJD’s religious outreach mirrors the BJP’s playbook, suggesting an abandonment of secular values. Some even remarked that Mr Patnaik has taken a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s book with the Odisha Chief Minister urging people in the state to light diyas (lamp), blow conch shells, beat cymbals, recite devotional hymns to celebrate the heritage project in Puri.
The intricate project involves not just the corridor but a comprehensive redevelopment of the temple complex. From the innovative Shree Setu to a dedicated shuttle lane and an AC tunnel for devotees’ comfort, the transformation aims to ease the increasing footfall and prevent stampede-like situations during festivals, especially the Rath Yatra, official sources said.