Congress should set house in order before taking to streets

By Kasturi Ray

If the Odisha Congress thought this 6-hour ‘chaka jam’ call protesting fuel price hike would assert its resurgence from an otherwise moribund state it has been since years in Odisha, it was not successful. Other than ensuring deserted roads and freak incidents of picketing and heckling, the protest did not yield the desired impact on powers-that-be rather inconvenienced common people.

The party needs to have its motive clear first before taking up a cause that is heating up across the country and is not state specific. It should have taken into consideration as to who is the bandh likely to affect. If by stranding vehicles and not allowing people to reach offices or educational institutions on time could affect the central leadership to reduce fuel prices, people wouldn’t mind starting for office at 12 noon after a scheduled six hour bandh every day. Rather on such days, most exhaust more fuel and time to take roundabout ways to reach their destination.

Pointing at the rise of excise duty by 110 percent on petrol and 350 percent on diesel in the last four years of BJP-led Central government, both the Congress and the BJD seem to be on the same footing. Which is why today’s bandh call of the Congress got support of the BJD that, as per its spokesperson, also took to the streets some days ago for the same cause. That also points to the fact that the Congress, apart from making some passing remarks on the state government to reduce taxes (read VAT), has not churned the issue any further.

Had the Congress intended to make an impact with a bandh of this kind, it should have involved the whole state instead of limiting it to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, as fuel price rise affects one and all. Second, instead of hurrying, the ‘chaka jam’ could have been organised after the break-away members came back to party fold. Third, the party should lay emphasis on strengthening its base that has almost crumbled over the years before making lacklustre attempts at garnering public support.

The ‘chaka jam’ has at best given the Congress a springboard impetus which lasted for moments and did not actually made any difference to the party’s presence. With elections months away if this ‘chaka jam’ was an attempt by the newly chosen OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik to declare an ‘uprising’, the party hasn’t learnt from past lessons. On record, the party has earlier lost elections under stewardship of Patnaik. Rebellions of this kind need people who are syrup dipped in party affairs at all levels like Lulu Mohapatra was. The influence he wielded, one call was more than enough for the Congress activists to be up in arms. Let’s accept, the bandhs then went overboard and not peaceful at all, but were impactful to let all know Congress is alive and kicking. At least such occasions made sure the grand old party was strong enough to take the bull by its horn. Without sounding a provocateur, this ‘chaka jam’ or bandh was an attempt that lost steam before gathering.

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