INTERVIEW | Congress will spring a surprise in Odisha: AICC state in-charge Ajoy Kumar

The former IPS officer and MP says the BJD and BJP have been exposed and there will be a groundswell of support for the party.
AICC in charge of Odisha Congress Ajoy Kumar talking to The New Indian Express in Bhubaneswar.
AICC in charge of Odisha Congress Ajoy Kumar talking to The New Indian Express in Bhubaneswar.Shamim Qureshy

Ajoy Kumar, former IPS officer and MP, has taken over as AICC Odisha in-charge in December last year. In an interview with Bijay Chaki, he spells out the action plan, issues and talks about the chances of Congress revival in Odisha.

Do you think the revival plans of the Congress are on course to achieve the stated objective of winning 90 seats and form the next government in the state?

We are working on a systematic plan. The party is implementing the plan sincerely. The results should be close to the target.

The state Congress has set a target to win at least eight to 10 Lok Sabha seats from Odisha this time. This was announced by OPCC president Sarat Pattanayak recently.

We have identified eight to 10 seats in which the Congress is strong. See, people were under the impression that the BJD and BJP are rivals. But now it has been exposed that they are actually one party. The Congress is the only opposition to the BJD in the state. That is why we (Congress) will do exceptionally well in the elections. All sections of people-women, the unemployed youths, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, farmers -- they have suffered during the tenure of this government. The income has come down. There will be a ground swell of support for the Congress. At the national level also this is true. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also quite aware of this. He is also not confident or else he would not be doing all these things of trying to bring down governments. He realises that defeating Congress is not so easy.

What is Congress plan of action for improving the party’s performance in the coming elections at the national and state level ? The party has been raising the issue of tacit understanding between BJD and BJP for quite some time. What is new in it?

It is not a question of what is new. People have now come to understand it better. Though, we will have to aggressively communicate to send the right message. People will have to be made aware about the positive story of the Congress. We have a very clear action plan for the weaker sections, farmers, women, SCs, STs and other sections which will be announced in course of time by Rahul Gandhi ji and Kharge ji. We will go to people with this. The other issue is Odisha has become poorer and poorer. IAS and IPS officers are running the show without any accountability. This is very dangerous for the state.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge addressed a huge rally at Bhubaneswar on January 29 and former president Rahul Gandhi is also scheduled to visit Odisha for three days from February 6 as a part of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. How will these impact the Congress fortunes in the state?

See. The prime minister addressed one public meeting. Similarly, when Rahulji and Khargeji come, the impact will be across the state. When a leader comes it increases the party’s visibility. It will also be a boost for the workers.

Congress has given green signal to the Ghar Wapsi programme to take back former partymen following which Gamang family and former Sambalpur MP Sanjay Bhoi have returned. Will this strengthen the organisation?

We are asking all the leaders to come. ‘Boond boond jude to samundar banta hai’ (Drops of water make the mighty ocean). All the good people should come back to the party.

Coming back to the slogan of 9 to 90 Assembly seats, it seems Congress does not have deserving candidates in even half of the seats. How do you plan to manage the shortcoming?

See. We have a system of selection. What is the idea of deserving? A tribal lady who has done well in Zilla Parishad may be selected. She may not be known in Bhubaneswar. But she has the potential. We want young people who are popular in their constituencies. We have a new team for all these things.

Congress activities in Odisha has become visible during the last couple of months. But, don’t you think it is a bit too late. The BJD and BJP are far ahead in poll preparations?

Obviously, more time was needed. I have no choice but definitely we will do good and win. We will have to work 24 hours a day. I want to tell one thing. I am not the face of the Congress in Odisha. I want to tell the Hanumans of Congress to realise their strength. I am here to ensure everybody does well.

Congress has started seat sharing talks with the Left parties and JMM. It seems talks have progressed as a far as Lok Sabha seats are concerned. What about Assembly seats?

Seat sharing talks are going on. A committee headed by Prasad Harichandan is on the job. It will fructify.

So, Congress is going to win the next elections?

I am sure and confident of a good show. You will be surprised by the result.

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