BHUBANESWAR: Congress is facing a peculiar situation this time ahead of the General Elections with a number of candidates either resigning or expressing their unwillingness to contest with the party ticket, thereby raising serious questions over its attempt to return to power in Odisha after 19 years.
BJP also faced a similar situation with two of its candidates joining the ruling BJD after getting ticket to contest Assembly elections. But the saffron party was compensated after a large number of disgruntled leaders from BJD, including some sitting and former MPs, joined BJP, strengthening the party apparatus in the State.
However, desertion from Congress, which started before the announcement of elections, continues unabated. The grand old party, which started on a positive note in Odisha, now seems to be finding it difficult to field candidates with last minute resignations. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the party had to change its Lok Sabha and two Assembly candidates in Keonjhar on Thursday with hardly a few hours remaining for filing of nomination papers.
The latest to resign from Congress was Bibhu Prasad Tarai, the party’s candidate from Tirtol Assembly seat. Tarai joined BJP on Thursday. Hours after fielding Prithvi Ballav, son of former Chief Minister JB Patnaik, from Begunia Assembly seat, the party had to change its candidate because of his unwillingness to contest.
Similarly, the party announced former MLA Yudhistir Samantray as its candidate from Pipili. But he declined to contest expressing his disappointment over the manner in which finalisation of his candidature was delayed. Samantray, who was MLA from Pipili from 1995 to 2000, alleged irregularities in selection of party candidates.
Meanwhile, there has been large-scale resentment in several district units protesting selection of candidates for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats. Announcement of former president of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Sarat Patnaik as the party’s candidate from Sambalpur Lok Sabha seat has sparked off a rebellion in the district unit of the party. Patnaik was a former MP from Balangir. Similarly, there has also been protest in Balangir district unit of the party. As many as 10 office-bearers of Congress in Balangir resigned on Wednesday in protest against selection of candidates.
Before the announcement of elections, several senior party leaders and MLAs had resigned from Congress. Former working president of OPCC and Jharsuguda MLA Naba Kishore Das joined BJD and is contesting from the same Assembly seat on a ruling party ticket. Another Congress leader and MLA Jogesh Singh has also been fielded by BJD from Sundargarh Assembly constituency.
Prakash Behera, who switched over to BJP, has been fielded from Salepur Assembly seat while Krushna Chandra Sagaria is the BSP candidate from Jeypore. Behera had won from Salepur on a Congress ticket in 2014 polls.
Nominees changed hours before deadline
Bhubaneswar: Hours before the deadline for filing of nomination papers came to an end on Thursday, Congress changed candidates of one Lok Sabha and two Assembly seats. The party replaced Fakir Mohan Nayak with Mohan Hembram as its candidate for Keonjhar Lok Sabha seat. Hembram was earlier announced as the party’s candidate from the Telkoi Assembly seat. Prashant Dalai has now been given ticket for the Telkoi seat. Besides, the party also replaced Gopeswar Naik with Binod Naik as its nominee for Patana Assembly seat. Congress also announced Ajit Mangaraj, Swagatika Patnaik and Basant Kumar Maharana as its candidate for Pipili, Khurda and Khandapada Assembly seats respectively. While Swagatika replaced Dilip Srichandan in Khurda, Basant has come in for Binodini Mohanty, the candidate in 2014 polls.