Bhubaneswar: Admitting that the party's support base has eroded in Odisha, senior Congress leaders led by former Chief Minister Hemananda Biswal on Tuesday held a conclave seeking immediate revival of the party in the state.
"As many people feel that the Congress support base is gradually eroding, I convened a meeting of the party leaders to chalk out a strategy to revive the organisation," Biswal told reporters rejecting allegation of holding a parallel meeting on AICC president Sonia Gandhi's birth day.
Though Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Jaydev Jena and other party functionaries were invited to the meeting, none of them attended the conclave.
However, former PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik, former PCC working president Chandrasekhar Sahu, former Union minister KC Lenka, former MP Ananta Sethi, Mahila Congress president Bijaylaxmi Sahoo, former minister Sitakanta Mohapatra and others attended the meeting.
Two sitting Congress MLAs- Prafulla Majhi and party's chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati also attended the meeting.
The meeting at this juncture is considered significant as Congress veteran and former chief minister J B Patnaik is slated to return to the state on Thursday after completing his tenure as Governor of Assam. Though Patnaik is yet to reveal his future plans, party leaders feel that his return to state politics would help Congress revival here.
"J B Patnaik is a senior leader. His return will certainly help the Congress in the state," Biswal said. Above 80 per cent of the leaders who attended today's meeting were strong supporters of Patnaik, party sources said.
While OPCC president Jena was not available for comment, party spokesman Sarat Rout said, "It is good that some leaders united and thought about revival of Congress.
But, it was seen that some leaders who worked against party's official candidates in last elections, attended the meeting."
The senior leaders who attended the meeting put forth their views and admitted that the Congress has weakened in the state over the years, opined that all should work in tandem to revive the party. "We all should go the party high command and say that the Congress leaders and workers want to work under a particular leader in Odisha," said K C Lenka.
Meanwhile, the meeting felt that Naveen Patnaik led BJD took advantage due to lack of unity among Congress leaders in the state. They demanded revival of the organisation in order to give a reply to the ruling BJD which faced serious charges like its leaders being arrested by the CBI in the chitfund scam.