Column: Congress Must Change Its Attitude

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Congress’s defeatist attitude is the biggest stumbling block in the path of its revival in the state. The latest example of this attitude is the statement of party veteran, former minister, Suresh Kumar Routray on a local TV channel almost conceding defeat in the Bijepur assembly by-poll. Asked about the party’s prospects in the bye-election necessitated by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik’s resignation from the seat Routray, presently an MLA from Jatni, said he did not expect the Congress to win.

A jovial character, Routray is known for making off the cuff remarks which are not always taken seriously. But considering that Congress currently has only nine MLAs in the state assembly and he is among the seniormost of them he should have avoided making such a statement even if he was trying to be realistic. Throwing in the towel midway through the battle will be seen as a sure sign of weakness, something which a party like Congress should avoid at all costs in a state where it is struggling to revive its fortunes.

The attitude of other senior party leaders including Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, Niranjan Patnaik has not been much different. Their body language suggests that they are low on confidence. In politics leaders put up a brave face even in the face of certain defeat. This has been a time honoured tradition because politics is the art of the possible. The bottom line is that you should never give up, at least not till the battle is done.

Congress had displayed a similar attitude in the bye-election held in the constituency last year when its candidate, Pranay Sahu lost his security deposit and later, with growing bitterness towards his own party leadership, he joined the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

The Congress leadership must remember that Bijepur was once the bastion of the party, the seat having been won by veteran, Subal Sahu thrice in a row before it fell vacant in 2018 following his untimely demise. With state Congress leaders failing to inspire confidence among them and to provide them required support the family of Sahu joined the BJD. His wife Rita was made the BJD candidate in the bye-election that followed his death and won the seat hands down.

The defection of the family to the BJD seems to have hurt the Congress but had the party really worked hard and come up with an effective electoral strategy in Bijepur it would have done much better even in that by-poll in the constituency. However, with its confidence dented the party seems to be lurching from one defeat to another which does not augur well for its future. Considering that Congress central leadership under UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has scripted a new blue-print for the party’s revival and Odisha unit is supposed to act in sync with with that plan state party leaders must change their attitude.

Congress is Odisha not only needs to unite by putting an end to self-destructive factional wars it must also display a more positive attitude. It has to be optimistic about a turnaround in its fotunes.

(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)