By A K SAHOO
Bhubaneswar, May 14: Though a little late, the recent changes in the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) seems to have rejuvenated the party and brought it again into reckoning
The new OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik and three working presidents have started their exercises at the grassroots to lift the organisation from the morass of decay, degeneration and disintegration the party has facing for nearly two decades now, – much because of lack of unity and cohesion among the senior leaders.
This time around, all the leaders, unlike the previous years when the top office-bearers of the OPCC behaved as independent lords, ostensibly to establish their one-upmanship in the organisation and pose themselves as future chief ministerial candidates; – are seemingly working in perfect unison, – leaving no chinks to be exploited by the ruling BJD to its advantage.
The three new working presidents – Chiranjib Biswal, Naba Kishore Das, Pradeep Majhi, ever since their appointment on April 19, have covered almost 50 per cent of the 30 districts, – holding discussions with the local senior leaders and convincing the workers to prepare for the “final battle” against the BJD.
The grand-old party which ruled the state for nearly four decades before being decimated in the 2000 elections by the BJD has seen its fortune plummeting continuously as all the tall leaders nourished the dream to become chief ministerial candidate. Their indulgence in factional fights had its cascading effects on the morale of the party workers most of whom switched over to the BJP and BJD.
According to political analysts, most of the Congress workers changed their allegiance to the BJD mainly because of ideological issues. The shift worked wonders for the regional party which registered continuous progress in the assembly elections. While it won 103 of the 147 assembly seats in 2009, its tally increased to 117 in 2014.
On the other hand, the Congress which had got 27 seats with 29.1 per cent votes in 2009, got only 16 seats and slipped to 25.7 per cent votes in 2014 polls.
This, the analysts said, indicated the mass exodus of the Congress voters to the BJD.
The new OPCC president has said the worst phase of the party has passed and it was now looking for good days ahead.
“We have passed through the worst phases and now time has come to see lights at the end of the tunnel. I’m confident, we would make substantial addition to our vote percentage in 2019 elections and come back to power in the state,” said the OPCC chief Mr Patnaik.
Analysts contend that the BJD would be hit hard if the Congress succeeds in wooing back its leaders, workers and voters. The regional party which garnered 43.3 per cent votes in 2014 might lose 20 to 30 seats if fails to retain the Congress voters it had wooed in the past few years.
The BJP which had got 18 per cent votes in 2019 assembly polls is also steadily eating into the vote banks of the BJD which was evident in the rural local body polls in 2017. It grabbed nearly 100 Zilla Parishad seats from the BJD.
Since the BJP has much less possibility to make a dent in the Congress’s traditional vote bank, the latter looks at benefiting from the growing unrest among the BJD voters at the grassroots.
Overcrowded with growing number of MLA ticket aspirants for 2019 assembly elections, the BJD is now struggling hard to keep its herd together. The aspirants, if denied tickets, might switch over to the Congress along with their supporters, – adding instant strength latter, – point out the analysts.
The Congress, as grapevine has it, – is now looking for opportunities to poach potential BJD leaders to pay the latter in same coin. In 2009 and 2014, the BJD had poached several tall leaders of the Congress, sending a message to public that the party was disintegrating beyond any recoverable proportions.
“It’s true Congress has suffered huge losses in the past few years much because of our own faults. But, it has certainly not died…it will rise from the ashes to serve people of Odisha,” said the OPCC chief Mr Patnaik.