King of Alwar Jitendra Singh, AICC in-charge of Odisha Cong, is finding his mission to revive the grand old party and wrest power from the BJD a Himalayan task. Leaders who might join other parties are a major headache for the Cong as last-minute defections are likely to rock the party’s poll preparations.
Bhubaneswar: Jitendra Singh, the King of Alwar and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Odisha, now finds his “Mission Odisha” facing impediments just like his predecessors B.K. Hariprasad and Jagdish Tytler.
After about six months of efforts to revive the party’s fortune in the BJD-ruled state, internal sabotage and differences of opinion among party leaders have resurfaced, raising doubts of the party’s ability to capture power in the state in 2019.
Though the state Congress unit has taken an early lead in preparation for 2019 Assembly and general elections in comparison to its rivals, the BJD and the BJP, it now faces the threat of dissertation by some sitting MLAs.
Sources in the grand old party said that some of the party’s lawmakers, just like days preceding the 2014 elections, are in touch with BJD president and chief minister Naveen Patnaik and might join the regional party early next year.
In 2014, when the Congress was seriously preparing for the poll battle party veteran and Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh surprisingly left the party. Besides, party’s stalwart and then Brajarajnagar MLA Anup Sai also changed his allegiance and fought elections on BJD ticket. Such poll-eve desertions had shattered the morale of Congress workers and the party could win only 16 of the 147 Assembly seats while it could not win a single Lok Sabha seat out of the total.21.
In the current, 147-member Assembly, the BJD has 117 MLAs and the BJP has 10 lawmakers
Congress sources said that a few leaders who in the past proved good vote pullers for the party are trying to desert the party so as to launch the political career of their children in the BJD. Mr Patnaik has launched over a dozen of wards of veteran state leaders, including non-BJD leaders, since 2000.
Internal bickerings in the Congress had stopped for a short period of six months following the appointment of Niranjan Patnaik as the new chief of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), however, friction within the grand old party has resurfaced now.
Soon after his appointment as the party chief in September, the astute politician Mr Patnaik had managed to convince the warring factions of the party to bury their hatchet and make efforts to come to power in 2019. Subsequently, leaders like Tara Prasad Bahinpati and Krushna Chandra Sagaria, two prominent faces of south Odisha, buried their differences and started working for the party. The PCC chief also brought to his side a few other leaders who initially did not like his appointment as PCC chief.
Now, Mr Sagaria appears to be an aggrieved person following his removal from the post of chairman of PCC Scheduled Tribe cell. It is being discussed in the political circles that the Koraput MLA along with a few others might quit the party and contest elections under the BJD banner. The legislator, however, has dismissed the possibility, saying though he has been hurt by the move of the PCC chief, he will continue to work for the Congress.
Mr Sagaria has rejected his new appointment as the PCC general secretary.
“I don’t understand when I was not considered fit as the head of PCC ST Cell, how would I be able to perform in the new position. I would continue to work for the party as an ordinary member,” said Mr Sagaria.
The greatest challenge before AICC leader Jitendra Singh is to keep a close watch on certain leaders who might emerge as turncoats, once again shaking the morale of the party’s rank and file, dealing body blows the party’s efforts to wrest power from the BJD and countering the BJP which is also working hard to come to power in Odisha.