BHUBANESWAR: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday appointed Prasad Harichandan as the new chief for the faction-ridden Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee, replacing Jayadev Jena.
Jena was made the PCC chief in May last year replacing Niranjan Patnaik, much to the chagrin of many in the party. Factionalism started soon after his appointment and reached a crescendo after the dismal performance of the party in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
Jena’s detractors had got fresh ammunition with the Congress candidate losing deposit in Kandhamal Lok Sabha byelections recently.
Several senior Congress leaders had met at the ‘Bandhu Milan’ organised by former chief minister Hemananda Biswal some days ago where the PCC leadership change issue had figured prominently.
Over a dozen State leaders, including seven MLAs, were camping in Delhi to press for a change of leadership. The dissident Congress MLAs had met AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday and demanded leadership change in the State.
Harichandan, 50, a former minister in the Giridhar Gamang government, has been elected thrice to the Assembly. He was the Chief Whip of the Congress Legislature Party in 14th Assembly from 2009 to 2014.
“I am an ordinary worker of the party. I will seek the blessings of all senior leaders and cooperation of frontal organisations to revive the party in the State. It will be a collective leadership,” Harichandan told reporters.
“The challenge for me is how to restore the confidence of the people in the party. We have the confidence that we can do it,” he said and thanked the AICC president and the vice-president for giving him the responsibility at a crucial time.
Sources in the Congress said that by appointing Harichandan, the party has tried to create a new leadership in the State and come out of the shadow of old guards like J B Patnaik and Hemananda Biswal.