Odisha Congress In Disarray

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OPCC President Prasad Harichandan has failed to deliver as a leader with results of the recent panchayat polls providing ample proof of his inability to make the party work as a unit. The rural polls saw the party being relegated to the third place.

Congress in Odisha seems to be in a hurry to press the self-destruct button. Factional fights have escalated into a full-fledged war between the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) and the party MLAs. The chorus for the removal of PCC president, Prasad Harichandan seems to be growing louder with each passing day.

The campaign against Harichandan began soon after he was installed as the state party chief making a mockery of his call to the party leaders to work as a team. The team spirit that he had promised to infuse into the party evaporated quickly.

Things began deteriorating with Harichandan picking up a quarrel with the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) headed by veteran, Narasingha Mishra soon after the latter called an all party meeting to evolve a consensus over the Mahanadi water sharing dispute.

The PCC did not support the move but Mishra, who enjoys the full support of party MLAs, went ahead with the meeting and later also led a team of party leaders to Chhatisgarh for an on-spot assessment of the situation on the Mahanadi front.

The relations between the two deteriorated to such an extent that they were hardly on talking terms and even campaigned separately in elections. This was utterly demoralising for the cadres. The chasm between Harichandan and Mishra seems to be growing with the dissidents deciding to step up their campaign.

Harichandan, no doubt, seems to be at sufferance but that does not augur well for the party which is fast beginning to concede political space to the BJP which seems to be on a comeback trail. The dissidents baying for PCC president’s blood have also sought to raise the BJP bogey while demanding the dismissal of Harichandan who, they allege, has failed as a leader.

There is no doubt that Harichandan has failed to deliver as a leader with results of the recent panchayat polls providing ample proof of his inability to make the party work as a unit. The rural polls saw the party being relegated to the third place behind the BJP while BJD continued to rule the roost.

Observers fear that with Congress conceding political space to the BJP the latter may soon emerge as the main opposition party in the state. “That, in fact, is already happening with BJP leaders showing more willingness than the Congress to take on Naveen Patnaik,” said an observer.

The BJP, in fact, seems to be working to a plan having already worked out its strategy for 2019 elections when it hopes to make big gains in the state if not actually replace the BJD as Odisha’s ruling party.  The plan of the saffron out became clear when it held its national executive in the state capital. It was a signal to the BJP rank and file that the leadership was serious about the state. The message to the people was that Odisha now tops BJP’s agenda as far as eastern India is concerned.

Much before the Bhubaneswar national executive senior BJP leaders and ministers from the state had started visiting the state on a regular basis and making statements that showed that Centre cared for the state more than the BJD government. In fact BJP and BJD engaged in a war of words over several crucial issues with the former making its intent clear.

The party that was left behind was the Congress. Even when Harichandan spoke no one took notice because he was being run down by his own MLAs. As he engaged in a running battle with the CLP and made a vain attempt at clipping the wings of Mishra, the cadres began to despair. A section of them sought to glorify former state youth Congress chief and Brahmagiri MLA, Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra aka Lulu who had  passed away a few months ago. But all this does not augur well for the party.

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