Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Though there are only nine of them in the state assembly this time Congress MLAs have impressed everyone with their performance in the House. The ongoing budget session of the legislature has seen them raising public issues of significance and pursuing them aggressively. They have been playing the role of opposition to the hilt though Congress is no more the main opposition party in the assembly, having conceded that honour to the BJP which has 23 MLAs.

Sometimes crisis brings the best out of people. The need for survival in the wake of party’s crushing defeat in the recent assembly elections appears to have made Congress legislators shrug off complacency and raise their performance level in the legislature. This is not to take anything away from the sterling show put up by veteran, Narasingha Mishra in his last avatar as the leader of opposition but most of his other colleagues did not come upto the scratch in the last assembly. One was left with the feeling that they had taken their job as law makers and public representatives rather lightly.

But now this small bunch of Congress leaders seems to be fighting as a unit. This group possesses right balance of experience and energy and is not willing to let go of any opportunity to embarrass the government. But they are not doing it for the heck of it. They are taking up the right kind of issues and highlighting the deficiencies of the state administration.

Watching their performance one feels bad about the steep decline of the Congress in Odisha. It is indeed a pity that the Grand Old party is slowly but surely losing its mass moorings. Congress’s downward slide is more or less a countrywide phenomenon but it has been quite acute in Odisha where it was thrown out of power in 2000 after decades of being at the helm of affairs. A major part of the blame for Congress’s lackluster showing in the last few elections should go to the leadership’s failure to curb rampant factionalism which has been the bane of the party.

A succession of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) presidents have been victims of this phenomenon. Take for example the case of Prasad Harichandan who had begun his innings with the slogan of “ moon nuhen amen” ( We not I) in a bid to unite the party by ironing out differences among faction leaders.

But within months of his taking charge as PCC president his war with the MLAs began. As the tug of war between the two sides intensified the legislators stepped up their campaign for his removal and he was finally replaced with former minister, Niranjan Patnaik who was preferred by a majority of legislators.

Ironical as it may seem on the eve of elections Patnaik was ditched by some of the very same MLAs who had once vigorously campaigned for his anointment as the state party chief. Three of them quit the Congress with two contesting the elections on Biju Janata Dal ticket and another on the BJP’s lotus symbol. The Congress could not recover from these blows and thoroughly demoralized it put up a below par performance at the hustings. But there is a glimmer of hope in the performance of its current bunch of MLAs in the state assembly. The party must learn from its mistakes and try to rebuild itself.

(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.)