BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha state unit of the Congress which has been struggling to regain its position in the state politics for nearly two decades finds itself at a crossroad as it desperately lacks an “all-acceptable” leader to lead the party from the front. Frequent defeats, mostly because of bitter internal fights, have decimated the party into a negligible force. The party’s strengths in both the state Assembly and the Lok Sabha have dwindled after every election held since 2000.
With the grand old party biting the dust in the recently held 2017 rural polls and the AICC leader in-charge of Odisha, B.K. Hariprasad, again failing to prove his worth in election management, the party now craves for a complete changeover to win back trust of its traditional voters who have switched their allegiance to the BJP. The incumbent PCC chief Prasad Harichandan, though intelligent with a clean image, has not received the required support from party leaders. He has been at daggers drawn with party’s senior leader and the Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra on different issues including Mahanadi water row with the neighbouring Chhattisgarh government and election management.
Besides, other senior leaders of the party like Niranjan Patnaik, Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Nabakishore Das, Chiranjibi Biswal do not appear to be comfortable with the leadership of Mr Harichandan. On many occasions, Tara Prasad Bahinipati has, in public, criticised the PCC chief for the party’s current sorry state of affairs. Mr Harichandan’s predecessors like Jayadev Jena, Niranjan Patnaik and Sarat Patnaik, had also met similar fate with the over-ambitious factional leaders challenging their leadership and not extending them support to fight the BJD.
All these leaders lost the top job just ahead of assembly elections by the All India Congress Committee (AICC). Every time the AICC leaders indulged in the change of guard gambling, the party paid heavy toll for it in terms of losing strength in the state Assembly.
In 1995, the Congress came back to power defeating the Biju Patnaik led Ja-nata Dal enjoying an absolute majority in the Assem-bly by winning 80 of the 147 seats with a vote share of 39.08 per cent. However, in 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2014, its seat tallies continued to go down to 26, 38, 27 and 16. The 2014 polls saw, Congre-ss’s vote share dipping to an all time low of 25.7 per cent.