Where is Congress heading in Odisha?

By A K Sahoo

Bhubaneswar: Where is Congress heading to in Odisha? Has it got a definite destination? Or it’s simply groping in wilderness? Or is it going to lose its entity in the coming 2019 polls?

Despite having been out of power since 2000, the grand old party appears to rudderless – exhausting itself in intra-party conflicts, thereby losing the aim of a resurrection. Unmindful of the fact they have lost ground under their feet, the factional leaders are vainly estimating them as the potential chief ministerial candidates capable of checking the giant Naveen Patnaik.

Senior leaders like Narasingha Mishra and Niranjan Patnaik have never been comfortable with the present Pradesh Congress Committee chief Prasad Harichandan. Besides, a host of other leaders like Tara Prasad Bahinipati and Jogesh Singh have not accepted the PCC chief as their leader.

What ails the party most is the open diatribe by the factional leaders against Mr Harichandan, cutting a sorry figure for the party in the public. This, according to political analysts, not only erodes the image of the party but also greatly causes corrosion in its net brand value.

As the Congress grapples with all such problems, the euphoria generated 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 the internal bickering in the state unit, instead of showing any abetment, intensifies with a section of senior leaders remaining firm on their stand to remove the OPCC chief Prasad Harichandan.

The party, analysts maintain, now stands on the brink of a possible split at any moment as the factional leaders are in no mood to accept OPCC Mr Harichandan as their leader, saying he is too “meek” to spearhead the party against the mighty Odisha Chief Minister 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 elections under Prasad’s leadership. And, they even threatened to take recourse to “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 Congress in Odisha under Prasad Harichandan and AICC-in-charge B K Hariprasad. Their weak leaderships have been exposed in the party’s crushing defeat in the hands of BJD and BJP 2017 rural polls and in the recently held Bijepur assembly elections. They need to be replaced by inspiring leaderships 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, – in the pretext making strategy for the forthcoming Assembly sessions, without intimating the OPCC chief.

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