BHUBANESWAR: Orissa has once again been ignored by the Congress high command giving rise to a feeling of dejection in the party rank and file here. The sidelining of MPs from Orissa in today’s Cabinet expansion has come as a shock for the Congressmen from the State.
What has come as further humiliation for the State is the fact that the expected elevation of the lone Minister of State Srikant Jena did not materialise. He was not even made a Minister of State with independent charge.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, six Congress candidates were elected from Orissa __ five from western Orissa. And this despite a wave in favour of the Biju Janata Dal. Speculation was rife that at least one Cabinet slot will go in favour of Orissa.
The names of former chief minister Hemananda Biswal and Orissa Pradesh Youth Congress president Pradip Majhi were doing the rounds.
However, the expectations of Congressmen have been belied. A senior Congress leader told this paper that repeated sidelining of Orissa leaders will affect the overall functioning of the party in the State.
This has come as a blessing in disguise for the BJD and has created an impression that the high command does not want to strengthen the State unit to take on the Naveen Government, which is groaning under the impact of several scams.
Sources in the Congress, however, maintained that squabbling in the State party has led to the sorry state of affairs. Though only one slot was expected, several factions were lobbying for inclusion of their chosen MP in the ministry.
OPCC president K P Singhdeo rushed to New Delhi by cancelling his programmes here, including a Press conference, in view of the new developments. As an interesting aside, Union Minister of State for Agriculture K V Thomas, who was in the State, rushed to New Delhi without attending his official programme here as his portfolio was changed to Food with Independent charge. Thomas was here to review the crop damage because of the untimely rains in December.