BHUBANESWAR: The BJD-BJP bonhomie at the Centre seems to have infused new energy into the Congress in the State. With growing perception over a political realignment compromising BJP’s position as the main challenger to Naveen Patnaik, the Congress is keen to capture the role as the main Opposition in the State. The party, which was struggling to set its house in order with a new leadership in place, has smelt its chances and seems to be in an overdrive to cash in on the discomfiture in the camps of both the BJD and BJP following the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson election.
BJD’s support to BJP at the national-level is nothing new. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik seeking his support for the NDA candidate and thanking him for the victory has put the State unit of the BJP in a very difficult situation. However, acute factionalism in the State unit has raised questions on how far Congress will be able to derive political mileage from the situation.
Victory of the NDA candidate has no doubt led to a barrage of statements from senior Congress leaders about an alliance between the BJD and BJP. But there seems to be no follow up as the State unit is yet to have a team to take up the issue with commitment and intensity. In the recent years, the Congress organisation in the State has gone from bad to worse with largescale desertions of party leaders and workers to the BJD and BJP at the grassroots-level. The State unit has a massive task at hand to plug the leak and revive the organisation at the district-level. With 2019 fast approaching, there is little time in hand for the party high command and State leadership.
Though senior leader Niranjan Patnaik took over as the president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) in April, the State office-bearer’s list is yet to be announced. Sources said Patnaik had submitted a list to the high command nearly two months back, but it is yet to be approved. Patnaik was appointed as the State president on April 19, 2018 along with three working presidents - Chiranjib Biswal, Naba Kishore Das and Pradip Majhi. Several other senior leaders were also appointed as head of different committees. With elections less than a year away, the delay in appointment of State office bearers has led to discontentment among the party leaders.
“The high command took more than one year to finalise Prasad Harichandan’s successor. Now it is holding back the State office bearers list which is going to do no good for organisational revival,” a senior leader said. Several steps including the decision to finalise 50 candidates for Assembly constituencies by August-end had been announced to revitalise the party. But as things stand, doubts have cropped up whether the party can exploit the changed political situation to improve its position in next election.