Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) came into existence in 1951. During the initial days, BJP did not have a unit in Odisha. The Party’s foundation was laid in 1964 with the visit of Pandit Dindayal Upadhyay, the National President, to Jharsuguda.
Odisha unit of BJS started under stewardship of Late Kushabhau Thakre. Sridhar Acharya was assigned as Organisation Secretary for Odisha. Thakreji promisingly started organizational work from Western Odisha along with other leaders. By 1971 BJS had already started its work at Jharsuguda with Padma Lochan Panda, a leading Advocate, as the first President of the State Jana Sangh. BJS had got its strong footing in Sambalpur, Kalahandi, Bolangir, Balasore, and Cuttack. In the same year the Party took part in general elections with Lamp (Deepa) Symbol.
During 1975, ‘Emergency’ was promulgated; and Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi unleashed a reign of terror under plea of maintenance of law & order. Leaders of opposition parties were arrested and incarcerated.
In post emergency era, four Leaders of Bharatiya Jana Sangha were elected to Odisha Legislative Assembly. They were: Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, Bimbadhar Kuanr, Purussottam Nayak, and Khirod Chandra Swain from Chilika, Bhatli, Bangiriposhi and Ramchandrapur constituencies, respectively. However, the Government could not complete its full term.
In 1980, Bharatiya Janata Party was formed. For the first time, BJP fought elections in 32 assembly constituencies. The “Pranitya Adhivesana” (State Level Meeting) of Odisha was held at Rourkela in 1981. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, founder and first National President of BJP provided ‘Marga Darshana’ from this day onwards. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other senior leaders of the Party continued their visits to the State. During 1982, National Executive Meeting of BJP was held in Kasturaba Nari Mahal at Bhubaneswar.
In 1984, Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited several parts of Odisha such as Khurda, Jatni, Berhampur, and Phulbani. Time and again, other founder leaders like Lal Krishna Advani also visited Odisha. In 1985, BJP contested 64 seats and won one seat i.e, Kamakhya Nagar in Odisha Legislative Assembly. Subsequently, BJP contested six seats in 1989 Lok Sabha Elections, and could win 1.5% of total votes. During 1990, BJP contested 67 assembly constituencies; and won two assembly seats with victory of Bikram Keshari Deo from Junagarh, and Jual Oram from Bonei with increase in percentage of Votes from 1.5% to 3.56%.
In 1991 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had to play a decisive role in political arena when Janata Dal was reduced in strength from 16 to 6 Parliament seats. It is noteworthy that decline in votes of Janata Dal was direct result of advancement of BJP with 9.0% of total votes. In 1992, a young BJP leader Arbinda Dhali became victorious in Malkangiri in a prestigious triangular contest in by-election to the Odisha Legislative Assembly.
During November 1992, BJP National Executive met again at Bhubaneswar where all the senior leaders of the party including the Chief Ministers of Four State under BJP rule, viz-Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajastan, and Himachal Pradesh participated. large numbers of ground level workers of the party participated in a massive public meeting in Capital High School playground at Bhubaneswar, which enabled BJP to create a wave in Odisha.
In 1995, Bharatiya Janata Party contested 144 seats and won 9 assembly seats in Odisha Legislative Assembly. The victorious members were: Samir Dey, Mahesh Sahoo, Ananta Narayan Singhdeo, Bikram Keshari Deo, Jual Oram, Pradipta Kumar Nayak, Jogendra Kumar Nayak, Arabinda Dhali, & Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo.
BJP has emerged as a potential party in 10th Lok Sabha Elections in 1996 even though none of its candidates won. During this period, the Party contested 20 parliamentary constituencies except Berhampur; and BJP got second position in 3 places. This was a turning point for BJP in Odisha.
In the by-elections for Bhubaneswar Assembly Constituency, BJP had a prestigious victory with Biswa Bhusan Harichandan as its candidate. Victory of Harichandan advanced the number of BJP MLAs to two digits i.e, 10. Since then, Bhubaneswar is continuing as a stronghold of Bharatiya Janata Party.
After raising its legislative position into two digits, BJP seriously considered not to divide Non-Congress votes. After the division of Janata Dal, the breakaway group formed a regional political party named Biju Janata Dal headed by Naveen Pattnaik. Both the BJP and BJD jointly contested 1998 Lok Sabha elections; and secured 16 seats out of 21. BJP contested 9 seats and won 7 seats.
Senior BJP leader Debendra Pradhan was included in the Union Council of Minister as Minister of Surface Transport. He transformed the National Highway map of Odisha into a great success; & added 1600 KM to the existing NH map. When he assumed portfolio of Agriculture in the Union Council of Ministers, he opened Krishi Vignana Kendras throughout Odisha.
During 1997 urban Body elections, BJP had 218 ward councillors to its credit which rose to 331 in 2003. In this election BJP captured 23 Chairmen of Urban Body in place of 8 Chairmen and 12 Vice-Chairmen in 1997. BJP polled 19% of votes during this election as against 21% of Janata Dal.
During General Elections to the Lok Sabha in 1999, BJP got all the 9 seats in Odisha with 100% success increasing its percentage of vote from 21.19 to 24.63%. In this election, BJP brought traditional Congress seats of Berhampur and Nawarangpur into its own hand. Smt. Jayanti Pattnaik was defeated by Anadi Sahu, the candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party from Berhaampur.
During the 12th Lok Sabha BJP MP Jual Oram was conferred with the Cabinet portfolio of Tribal Affairs. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave him this assignment by creating a new ministry for the first time in the history of Independent India. During his tenure, 270 communities were included in the list of Scheduled Tribes by amending the Constitution of India (The Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes (Amendment) Act, 2002.
During 2002 elections the alliance of BJP and BJD secured 114 seats in 147 constituencies of Odisha Legislative Assembly; and formed the government under Naveen Pattnaik in which 9 BJP Legislators became Ministers. BJP had won 38 seats out of 63 it contested; and 4 Nos. of Independent legislators supported BJP.
In 2002 3-Tier Panchayat Elections, BJP could raise its position from 120 Zilla Parishad Members to 183 out of 854. In this election, BJP had 7 Zilla Parisad Presidents, which was 5 more than 1997; and 8 Zilla Parishad Vice Presidents. Out of 314 Blocks, BJP set up its position in 73 Blocks with Chairmen and 68 Vice Chairmen.
In the first ever Corporation Election in twin corporate bodies of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, BJP succeeded in securing prestigious posts of Mayor in Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) and Dy. Mayor in Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).
BJP shared power with BJD during 2000-2004; and several new policies were taken. Samir Dey was Minister for urban development. During this period, Municipal Corporation Bill 2003 was passed by OLA. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack Corporations were formed. Municipal Teachers were enrolled as Govt. teachers. For the first time 26 NACs were given piped water Supply. Several Water supply projects were completed in Rourkea, Sambalpur and Titlagarh. Slum development was initiated under Balmiki-Ambedkar Yojana. Netaji Birth place Smaraki, Deendayal park & Statue, Hegdewar Colony, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee park, Netaji Subas park, Budha park and Deen Dayal Bhavan etc. saw light.
During 2004-2009, Dress Code was implemented in Colleges. Ravenshaw University, National University, Rabi Shankar University, Central University, Vedik University, & NICER University were established.
Several New Tahasils were opened under stewardship of Biswabhusan Harichandan. BJP ministers took initiative in providing rice @ Rs. 2/- per kg for the poor. Care was taken to stop distress sale of paddy by the farmers.
Land Pass Book was provided by the then Revenue minister Man Mohan Samal for the first time. Under Basundhara scheme, landless persons were given land for their household. Surama Padhy the Minister, Cooperation, took initiative in providing Kisan Credit Cards. New Industrial Policy was formulated to attract industry into the State by Industry Minister Kanak Bardhan Singhdeo. Gopapur Port, & Dhamara Port projects were brought into being by Jaya Narayan Mishra.
During 2014 Assembly and Parliamentary elections, BJP own 10 assembly seats and one Parliamentary seat. Jual Oram, the lone BJP MP, became Minister for tribal welfare in Narendra Modi Government. Odisha also got another portfolio with Dharmendra Pradhan from Odisha as Minister. He was elected to Rajya Saha from Bihar. Over long term, BJP increased its share of votes from 1% in 1980 to 21% in 2014.
Biswabhusan Harichandan was State President of BJP in 1980. Subsequently Dr. Debendra Pradhan, Bimbadhar Kuar, Jual Oram, Manmohan Samal, Suresh Pujhari, have been illustrious State Presidents of BJP. Presently, since 2011, the State unit of the Party is under stewardship of K.V. Singdeo.
The next Govt. in Odisha is certain to be the BJP Government.