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Odisha: Congress stares down an abyss

THE ASIAN AGE. | AKSHAYA KUMAR SAHOO
Published : Mar 19, 2018, 5:34 am IST
Updated : Mar 19, 2018, 5:34 am IST

The growing chasm between MLAs and the PCC president has adversely affected the morale of the party workers and PCC office-bearers.

Prasad Harichandan
 Prasad Harichandan

Bhubaneswar: The euphoria in Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) after the party’s impressive show in Gujarat Assembly polls and Rajasthan bypolls seems to be fading fast as internal bickering in the state unit intensified with a section remaining firm on its stand to remove state unit chief Prasad Harichandan.

The party now stands on the brink of a possible split at any moment as the leaders of rival factions are in no mood to accept Mr Harichandan as their leader. They say he is too “meek” to lead the party against the mighty Odisha CM and BJD president Naveen Patnaik.

Some of the senior Congress leaders, including Jeypore MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati and Sundargarh MLA Jogesh Singh, have categorically said that they would not fight the 2019 Assembly polls under Mr Harichandan's stewardship. They even threatened to take recourse to a “suitable alternative” if the demand for change of guard in the state unit was not met by the All-India Congress Committee (AICC).

“We don’t see any good times ahead for the party in Odisha under Mr Harichandan and AICC-in-charge B.K. Hariprasad. Their weak leadership stands exposed in the party’s crushing defeat at the hands of BJD and BJP in 2017 rural polls and in the recently held Bijepur Assembly elections. They need to be replaced by those who can resurrect the party and bring it to the winning track,” said MLA Jogesh Singh.

An unusual revolt of sorts in the state Congress unit came to the fore on Wednesday when the all the party MLAs met at the residence of Narasingha Mishra, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, on the pretext chalking out a strategy for the forthcoming Assembly sessions. They gathered without intimating the OPCC chief.

This is not the first time that the lawmakers ignored the PCC president. On earlier occasions in the past two years, they have chosen to avoid Mr Harichandan’s presence in the Congress by  making their intention clear —the latter’s leadership was not acceptable to them.

The growing chasm between MLAs and the PCC president has adversely affected the morale of the party workers and PCC office-bearers. The Congress state headquarters in Bhubaneswar wears a desolate look. Mr Harichandan’s father-in-law Suresh Kumar Routray makes an occasional visit to the party office with a handful of supporters where he launches no-holds-barred attack on the factional leaders alleging they want to dislodge his son-in-law.

The animosity between the PCC chief and his supporters and his opponents have reached to such a point that the state intelligence has asked the city police to remain alert to avoid any possible bloody clashes between them.

What is worrying the party no end is president Rahul Gandhi’s discreet silence on setting the PCC in order. Senior, including the MLAs, have met him at least six times in the past couple of years, explaining the prevailing political situation in the state and pleading for a change of guard.

Though, as the leaders said they were assured of a change of PCC leadership on every occasion, nothing has happened as yet which led to the party’s disastrous defeat in panchayat polls and Assembly bypoll. Most factional leaders demand reinstallation of former minister Niranjan Patnaik as the new PCC chief.

Tags: rajasthan bypolls, prasad harichandan, odisha pradesh congress committee
Location: India, Odisha, Bhubaneswar