BHUBANESWAR: With only two days to go for the first phase polls in Odisha, Congress received a severe jolt as president of Odisha Pradesh Mahila Congress (OPMC) Sumitra Jena resigned from the party protesting against inadequate representation to women in selection of candidates and joined the ruling BJD.
Two vice-presidents of OPMC Kamala Tiria and Bhagyashri Pradhan, general secretary Sujata Jena and several other leaders also joined BJD at Naveen Nivas in presence of Chief Minister and BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik. Naveen welcomed them into the party and said it will strengthen the BJD organisation in Khurda and Puri districts.
“It was unbearable for me to tolerate the apathy of OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik towards women,” Jena said after announcing her resignation. Jena alleged she had submitted a list of 52 women candidates including eight for Lok Sabha seats. But less than five per cent women candidates have been fielded by Congress, she said and asked the OPCC chief to explain the criteria and parameters fixed by the party for selection of candidates. Jena said when she took up the issue with Patnaik, he said Congress needs capable candidates to contest polls.
Alleging large-scale irregularities in selection of candidates, Jena said tickets were given to persons who had money and the criteria of winnability took a back seat. She, however, said the decision to quit Congress was not an easy one. Though she was influenced by the leadership of AICC president Rahul Gandhi, Jena said it was very difficult to work with Patnaik. “It is very difficult to work under the leadership of Niranjan Babu though I was among those who had fought hard to make him the OPCC president,” she said.
Talking to mediapersons, the OPCC president said the party has fielded 90 new candidates for the Assembly elections. “Will there be no displeasure among the candidates who had earlier contested the polls?” Patnaik asked.