Op-Ed: Congress in Doldrums

Bhubaneswar: Congress seems to have shot itself in the foot in Odisha. The main opposition party of the state, which has ruled Odisha for the longest period, seems to be conceding political space to the BJP which is fast emerging as the main rival of ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in these elections.

Ironically the fall of Congress has been precipitated following the appointment of Niranjan Patnaik as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief though he was supposed to stabilise and strengthen the party in the state. Patnaik, who was anointed as the PCC chief in the wake of a long and bitter battle between his predecessor, Prasad Harichandan and a powerful group of party MLAs, was seen as resourceful and capable of keeping the party united. He was, for all practical purposes, the unanimous choice of party MLAs who had launched a sustained campaign for the ouster of Harichandan.

Patnaik was seen as a ray of hope for the party which had received a major blow in the Bijepur assembly by-poll losing the seat to BJD. The humiliation was complete with its candidate losing his security deposit. Ironically the BJD candidate in the constituency was Rita Sahu, the widow of Congress MLA, Subal Sahu whose demise had led to the by-election.

The loss in Bijepur would have been less embarrassing for the party had it put up a united show but that was not be. The fact is that infighting in the Congress was at its peak when Harichandan and other leaders hit the campaign trail in Bijepur. The differences between Harichandan and the party MLAs had become virtually irreconcilable.

However, things were supposed to look up for the party with Patnaik taking up its reins in the state. He was supposed to have resources and was determined to reverse the fortunes of Congress in Odisha where it has been out of power since 2000. He began on the right note trying to keep all the clashing groups of the party together.

But soon things went haywire. The rift between him and former union minister, Srikant Jena began widening. Soon Jena acolyte, Koraput MLA, Krushna Chandra Sagaria quit as a legislator and then parted ways with the party itself. Jena followed suit.

More surprising and painful for the party, however, were the resignations of Jharsuguda MLA, Naba Kishore Das and Sundergarh MLA, Jogesh Singh as they had been at the forefront of the campaign for the removal of Prasad Harichandan as the PCC chief and his replacement with Niranjan Patnaik. They were supposed to be close to Patnaik.

But both resigned and joined the BJD and are contesting the ensuing elections on its ticket. Soon after Congress MLA from Salipur, Prakash Behera also left the party and joined BJP. He is now the party candidate from Salipur.

In short, Congress’s cup of woes is overflowing. At a time when it should get into the top gear and accelerate its campaign for the elections it seems to be bogged down by rising dissent.

(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)