Its vote share dropped to 13.4 per cent from 25.6 per cent in 2019.
Bhubaneswar: Humbled time and again on the hustings — Assembly or Lok Sabha — not because of strong rivals in the fray but because of its own weaknesses, the Congress does not show any sign of revival in Odisha.
With almost all its frontal organisations of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) in a frozen state and committees dissolved, Odisha state unit of the Congress has almost been dysfunctional post the 2019 polls. Neither the PCC president Niranjan Patnaik nor the All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader in charge of Odisha — Jitendra Singh who had boasted of bringing a turnaround in the party — is seen at the Congress Bhawan here and taking stock of the situation.
Though over three months have passed since the results of 2019 general elections and Assembly polls were announced with the BJD retaining power in the state for the fifth consecutive term and bagging 12 Lok Sabha seats, the party’s top leaders have not been able to sit under one platform and assess the reasons of defeat, let alone prepare the roadmap for forthcoming urban local body polls and by-election for the Bijepur Assembly seat in Bargarh district.
In 2019 Assembly elections, the Congress’s strength in the Assembly dropped to nine only, seven fewer than the 2014 elections. Its vote share this time dropped to 13.4 per cent from 25.6 per cent in 2019. Similarly in the Lok Sabha polls, it got only one seat and its vote share this time drastically dropped to 16.1 per cent from 25.7 per cent in 2014.
Although the PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik owned the responsibility and tendered his resignation, the AICC rejected it and asked him to continue in his position.
On the other hand, AICC Odisha in-charge Jitendra Singh has not uttered a single word on the party’s “poorest show”.
As the party moves rudderless because of the dysfunctional PCC unit, its MLAs led by veteran Narasingha Mishra are carrying ahead, albeit in very thin volume, organisational activities. It is their effective participation on their floor of the Assembly that has helped assuage the feeling of the party’s rank and file who felt dejected for the poor electoral show.
Though the AICC preferred to continue with Niranjan Patnaik at the helm of affairs, many of the party’s top leaders are not much enthused by this move. Veteran leader Amar Pradhan, while taking a jibe at Mr Patnaik, said, “Niranjan Patnaik is a clever businessman, but he could not become a successful politician. People did not accept the Congress as he promoted dynasty politics. He (Niranjan) made the Congress a family affair. His son contested the polls and many others were allowed for which party suffered,” said Mr Pradhan.
Not only Mr Pradhan, senior leader and AICC secretary, Sarat Rout has also indirectly raised fingers at the party’s state leadership recently and asserted that “Congress should not be destroyed for protecting self-interests.”
Prior to Amar Pradhan and Sarat Rout, former Union minister and ex-PCC Kanhu Charan Lenka had summed up the reasons of Congress’s catastrophe. He indirectly blamed the party’s top leaders, including PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik, former chief minister Hemanananda Biswal, former Leader of the Narasingha Mishra and campaign committee chairperson Bhakta Charan Das for party’s debacles.
He observed that as these leaders fielded their children in the polls ignoring senior leaders of the party and claims of many other leaders who gave their sweat and blood working for the people at the grassroots, the party was rejected by the people
“More than 50 per cent of our candidates forfeited their deposits because many of them did not come from Congress background and were completely new faces. What is worse is that most of the youth candidates were businessmen who were given tickets for reasons best known to the PCC leadership. In several constituencies, the Congress candidates were asked to remain inactive as there was a deal between the top leaders of the party and BJD leaders to help the latter,” said Mr Lenka.
According to political analysts, as all top leaders, including PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik, two working presidents – Chiranjibi Biswal and Pradeep Majhi; and campaign committee chairperson Bhakta Charan Das – lost the elections, the spirit of party workers and lower-order leaders have sunk low.
It can only be lifted if a new leader is appointed as PCC chief and a firebrand AICC leader is given charge of the state to lift the party from its morass.