Bhubaneswar: If the disastrous performance in 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections were not enough for Odisha Congress, the dissidence of a coterie against State leadership is threatening the grand old party’s existence.
Ever since Niranjan Patnaik took over the reins of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee in April 2018, dissent began to simmer against the party veteran. And now, after Congress’ debacle in the Bijepur assembly by-poll, these voices have come out in the open.
Few days back, a group of Congress leaders backed by their followers met at a hotel in the State Capital staging an informal coup against the PCC president. However, Niranjan an old-hand in Odisha politics seemed unperturbed by this discreet meeting.
The revolting clique is willing to get Niranjan replaced with youth leader and Cuttack Barabati MLA, Md Moquim.
“I have nothing to comment. If they (the rebels) want to seat someone in the post of PCC president, they should directly come to me. I myself would propose the name of the candidate to party high command,” said Niranjan with poise.
Speculation was rife all through the week that the dissidents might race to Delhi and propose Moquim’s name for PCC top post. After a majority of senior Congress leaders led by Jatni MLA Suresh Routray voiced their support for Niranjan, the dissidence diffused.
The call for Niranjan’s removal got shriller on Sunday with another leader of the party Ashok Samal opinion. “To revive and strengthen the party a change in leadership is indispensable. Therefore we have decided to go and meet the High Command in the first week of this month,” he said.
Samal added that they have met Niranjan on this issue. Our PCC president has assured us that he will himself propose the name of the new candidate for the post of PCC president.
Reacting to the internal bickering, Niranjan said, “Discipline within a party will boost its prospects. If the party lacks unity and discipline, it cannot prosper.”
On the other hand, Routary continued to vouch for the incumbent PCC president’s leadership. These events are unfortunate weakening the party. The workers are getting demoralised, he said. “We have no objection with the candidature of Moquim but the selection and appointment will be done by none other than Sonia Gandhi.”
Routray added that there will be a miracle and Congress will be back in form in Odisha. “People across the country have seen Congress’ excellent performance in Haryana and Maharashtra. We will display similar show in the upcoming urban body polls in Odisha,” Routray added.