Rashmi Ranjan

The Odisha Congress on Tuesday announced the names of its star campaigners ahead of the Panchayat polls slated to begin from February 16. However, the party has decided to exclude former Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Prasad Harichandan’s name from the list, hinting something is not well within the party.

The Congress which is pushed to the third position in Odisha politics will utilise its leaders from the neighboring Chhattisgarh to campaign for its candidates for the three-tire rural body elections.

The names of Chhattisgarh Congress leaders figured in the list of 20 star campaigners and was submitted by the party to the State Election Commissioner, Odisha, a party release said.

The Chhattisgarh leaders who will campaign in Odisha include the state's PCC president Mohan Markam and the Ministers Kawasi Lakhma and Amar Jeet Bhagat. 

The Chhattisgarh leaders will campaign for Congress candidates in the border districts.

OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik, senior leader Narasingha Mishra and Odisha in-charge A Chella Kumar are also among the star campaigners for the Congress.

Among other Congress leaders who will campaign for the party include AICC secretary G Rudra Raju, OPCC working president Chiranjib Biswal, MP Saptagiri Ulaka, former OPCC presidents Jayadev Jena, Sarat Patnaik and Panchanan Kanungo.

However, former OPCC president Harichandan's name was excluded from the list after he broke his silence following criticisms for his alleged role in the non-distribution of party tickets among aspirants in six Zilla Parishad zones of Satyabadi Assembly Constituency in Puri district.

“Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi don’t know that Prasad Harichandan has been excluded from the list of star campaigners. I will definitely raise the matter and ask why key persons are being excluded from the list triggering infighting in the party. This should not have happened,” said Sura Routray, senior Congress leader.

Congress has not fielded any candidate from Satyabadi for the first time, an indication of fresh infighting in the party ahead of the Panchayat polls.

The party has fielded 836 candidates for 852 Zilla Parishad posts in Odisha, election for which will be held between February 16 and February 24.