Naveen decimates Congress, JMM
by Ashok B Sharma on 31 Mar 2014 4 Comments

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik exudes confidence about bouncing back to power for the fourth time in succession and increasing his tally in the Lok Sabha after winning over prominent Congress leaders to his side and gobbling up the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). The state votes on April 10 and 17 to elect a 147-member Assembly and 21 members to the Lok Sabha.


Thanks to a weak and ineffective state leadership, the Congress has not been able to keep its flock together, giving Naveen Patnaik a chance to decimate the party even before the polls. Taking advantage of the discontent in the state Congress unit, Patnaik has poached key leaders such as Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Bhupinder Singh, Nayagarh district unit president Hemendra Singh, senior leader Kamala Das, and CLP secretary Anup Kumar Sai.


Anup Sai has been given the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) ticket from Brajrajnagar Assembly seat. Mema Gamang, wife of former Odisha Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang, who crossed over to BJD has been rewarded with ticket for the Laxmipur Assembly seat.


Discontent in the Odisha Congress is at an all-time high, with former minister Ramakrushna Patnaik and his wife ex-MP Kumudini quitting and joining the BJP. The deputy leader of the CLP, Chakradhar Paik, quit the Congress on being denied a ticket; former MLA Umesh Swaim from Jagatsinghpur district also quit, while former Chief Minister Hemananda Biswal refused to contest.


Naveen Patnaik has also poached on the JMM, giving its state president Sudam Marandi a ticket for the Bangiriposi Assembly seat, while Bhadab Hansda is slated to contest from Saraskana Assembly seat on the BJD ticket.


Nor has Patnaik spared the Bharatiya Janata Party; former ministers Golak Naik and Bimbadhar Kumar, former deputy mayor of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation Urmila Mohapatra have joined the BJD. Golak Naik has been nominated to contest from Udala Assembly seat while another former BJP leader is slated to contest from Jaleswar Assembly seat. As many as 16 independent councillors have joined the BJD; Independent MLA, Braja Pradhan (Talcher) has been given the BJD nomination.


Having succeeded in his poaching game, Naveen Patnaik is confident of increasing his tally of Lok Sabha seats from 14 in the 2009 polls. He also intends to increase his current strength of 103 seats in the 147-member House. The Congress which won 27 seats in state Assembly in 2009 is likely to decline in numbers and pave the way for the BJP to substantially increase its tally from 6 and emerge as the principal Opposition party. BJP hopes to increase its tally by riding the Modi wave in the face of a battered Congress party.


The state Congress has failed to retain its flock on account of being out of power in the state for the last 15 years. At one time it seemed that the party was on the path of resurgence under the leadership of the then AICC in-charge Jagdish Tytler and the then state unit president Niranjan Patnaik. But the abrupt change of guards brought the party back to square one.


Odisha has a long legacy of Patnaik rule - be it the Biju Patnaik-Naveen Patnaik legacy on one hand or the legacy of Janaki Ballav Patnaik of Congress on the other side. After being three times chief minister, JB Patnaik was gradually marginalised after the defeat of his party and subsequently sent as Governor of Assam. However, his close relation, Niranjan Patnaik, and his son-in-law and media baron Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik, wielded considerable influence for some time till the former was replaced by Jaydeb Jena as president of the state unit. Jagdish Tytler was replaced by BK Hariprasad as AICC in-charge.


BK Hariprasad has not been able to tackle the discontent within the party. The Union Minister of State Srikanta Jena has also been ineffective and is seen as inimical to many senior state Congress leaders who view as an outsider from the JD(U) in which Biju Patnaik was a leader.


As a result, the Congress campaign has not picked up the desired momentum due to weak leadership and the exodus of important leaders to the BJD camp. Even national leaders have given scant attention to the state. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is slated to campaign in Koraput and Nabrangpur on March 31 where tribals have given a boycott call. 


On his part, Naveen Patnaik has designed a clever strategy to accommodate the newcomers by denying tickets to 35 sitting MLAs and 6 MPs. The latter include Nityananda Pradhan (Aska), Mohan Jena (Jajpur), Rudramadhav Ray (Kandhamal), Yoswant Singh Laguri (Keonjhar), Jayram Pangi (Koraput) and Laxman Tudu (Mayurbhanj).


Instead, he has fielded four Rajya Sabha MPs, Dilip Tirkey, Rabi Narayan Mohapatra, Sashi Bhushan Behra and AU Singhdeo for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats after assessing their winning chances. While Tirkey is in the fray from Sundergarh Lok Sabha seat, Mohapatra is to contest Ranpur Assembly seat; Sashi Bhushan Behra the Jaydev Assembly seat and AU Singhdeo the Bolangir Assembly seat.


All three parties, the BJD, Congress and BJP, are going to the polls alone. Hence, BJD being the regional heavyweight is likely to retain its supremacy as the largest party and form the government on its own strength, besides winning a sizeable number of Lok Sabha seats. As Congress is riddled with factionalism and the exodus of important leaders to the BJD, there is a strong possibility of its losing its status as principal Opposition party to the BJP. the BJP may also make its presence felt in the Lok Sabha, eyeing seats it had won in 2004, particularly from western Odisha where it has a base.


BJP has roped in a former founder-member of BJD and former Union Minister Dilip Ray and has fielded him for the Rourkela Assembly seat. The president of BJP state unit, KV Singdeo, is contesting from Patnagarh Assembly seat; while former MLAs Bhaskar Madhei and Prasanna Patnayak are fighting from Udala and Kamakhyanagar Assembly seats.


BJP has fielded sitting MLA Pratap Sarangi for Balasore Lok Sabha seat, former minister Pradeep Nayak for Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat, co-convenor of party’s security cell Subhas Chauhan for Bargarh Lok Sabha seat, former MP Anant Nayak for Keonjhar Lok Sabha seat, among others.

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top