Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The old adage ‘the more things change the more they remain the same,’ seems quite applicable in the case of Congress in Odisha. The appointment of veteran, Niranjan  Patnaik as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC)  president before the announcement of elections was supposed to rejuvenate the party in the state. The move had enthused state party leaders while galvanizing the cadres.

But nothing has actually changed in the party which seems to be crumbling now. And it is all the fault of the state leadership which has shown a tendency to shoot itself in the foot. The choice of candidates at certain places has been bizarre, to say the least. For example one fails to understand the logic behind fielding Delhi-based power sector entrepreneur, V.Chandra Sekhar Naidu on the prestigious  Berhampur Lok Sabha seat which was a Congress bastion for long 40 years.

Naidu just cannot speak Odia. He communicates only in Telugu, English and Hindi. True that the constituency has a large number of Telugu speaking voters but a candidate who cannot speak the language of the state is unlikely to be favoured. Besides with such candidates in the fray the Congress forfeits its right to criticize chief minister, Naveen Patnaik for his poor knowledge of Odia language. This has been the chief minister’s Achilles heel and the party could have made it a made it a major campaign issue. But it has blown the opportunity.

It was also state Congress leadership’s failure that last year the party saw major defections from its camp to the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Berhampur which was once considered the safest seat for the party. So much so that former Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao, the popular “ Telugu Bidda”, contested and won from here in 1996.

Last year, former union minister, Chandra Sekhar Sahu and his close lieutenant, Bikram Panda alongwith their followers had quit Congress and joined the BJD. Sahu is now the BJD candidate on the Berhampur Lok Sabha seat while Panda is contesting the Berhampur assembly seat on the party’s ticket. Congress’s prospects, no wonder, appear bleak on these seats.

The current fracas over tickets in the party is another reflection of leadership’s failure and its utterly selfish attitude. While the party, which had initially decided to wage a war against dynastic politics in Odisha, appears to be brazenly promoting family politics in the name of  “winnability” it has either denied or been late in handing tickets to some senior and deserving leaders.

The rise of dynasty within the party is clearly reflected in some glaring cases where both father and son have been given tickets. The most obvious case is that of PCC president, Niranjan Patnaik himself. While he is contesting from two assembly seats simultaneously his son is the party candidate from the Balasore Lok Sabha seat. Similarly senior leader, Narasingha Mishra is contesting the Bolangir assembly seat while his son, Samarendra is fighting on the hand symbol from the Bolangir Lok Sabha seat. Such decisions are bound to evoke criticism.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)