State Congress mantle falls on Prasad Harichandan

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Bhubaneswar: It’s official. Congress high command today named young leader Prasad Harichandan to lead the party in Odisha. He would replace Jayadev Jena as Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president. The much-awaited announcement came from All India Congress Committee (AICC) in the evening.

In his reaction to the announcement, a seemingly elated Harichandan said that he would take all sections of the party along while strengthening the organisation in the state. “We will prepare a definite roadmap to win the trust of the people in the coming days,” he added.

In his knee-jerk reaction, outgoing OPCC chief Jena said, “Some people wanted me to go. Now they would be happy. Anyway, we will work for the party unitedly.”

Commenting on the development, former Congress MP Pradeep Majhi, who was also a front-runner for the post, said, “He (Harichandan) is a dynamic young leader. We hope he will provide us a strong leadership. The party’s young activists are excited after hearing the news.”

He, however, claimed that Jena wanted to step down as OPCC chief after the recent poll debacle and AICC too wanted a leadership change at the same time. “It was waiting to happen. So, JB Patnaik’s return to the State has nothing to do with it,” he added.

Harichandan has enough time to make the party battle-ready for Panchayati Raj elections in 2017 as well as the Assembly and parliamentary polls in the State in 2019, Majhi pointed out.

Earlier in the day, political circles were agog with probable names for the position. The names which were doing the rounds were former OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik and senior leader Chiranjibi Biswal. Party’s Odisha in-charge Shubhankar Sarkar had said, “Young leadership will be given the charge to strengthen the party in the state.”

Last week, 13 Congress state leaders had visited Delhi and met party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and some other central leaders. Earlier, some senior Congress leaders had met at the ‘Bandhu Milan’ organized by former Chief Minister Hemananda Biswal where leadership change had figured prominently.

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