OST Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 9:
The main purpose behind the interaction appeared to be to collect feedback from local media persons about how the party was doing in Odisha. But worried over possible negative remarks about them, state leaders, including PCC president Jayadev Jena and Union minister Srikant Jena, not only stuck around Rahul but kept butting in, thus preventing a free and frank exchange, the sources said.
“Ajay Maken, who heads the media cell of the party, as well as Rahul himself kept repeating that the interaction was ‘off the record’. While that was understandable, what we failed to digest is why people like Jayadev Jena and Srikant Jena, the two people responsible for the party’s disastrous showings in the recent past, were allowed to be there,” a participant in the interaction told OST.
“The Jenas had planned it really well and thanks to ‘friendly people’ in the media group, they sought to create an impression that the party was suffering only because of the stigma created in the public mind against the ’15-year Congress rule’(read JB Patnaik’s rule), “said another participant who found the entire exercise ‘farcical’.
Rahul Gandhi, sources said, pleaded ignorance about the Shah Commission’s findings when asked about why the Congress leadership in Delhi was willing to let the Naveen Patnaik government off the hook. His stand that he was not aware of the details appeared unconvincing because the Commission’s findings are in the public domain for weeks, the participant said.
“If he is really unaware about the whole thing, how is it that he quoted the figure mentioned by the Shah Commission, Rs 60, 000 crore, being looted by the mining mafia in his public meeting at Bhatapada?’ he asked.
Rahul dismissed allegations that there was any understanding with the Biju Janata Dal and made it clear that his party would not consider any alliance with the BJD even after the elections.
“It is another matter that the Congress will have no reasons to look for any party’s support when it comes to government formation at the Centre. But Rahul should have realized that his party is suffering not because the imaginary ghost of JB rule, which ended some 15 years ago, is haunting the people but precisely because he has allowed the party to play second fiddle to the BJD all these years and has placed second-rate leaders without a support base in command of the state unit,” said a senior scribe.
Too many issues were discussed during the interaction without any sense of focus, party insiders said, adding the idea was to let Rahul believe that everything that is wrong with the state Congress is because of the past and the ‘Patnaik clan’.
“Rahul and his think tank should now do some introspection and find out why his party was biting dust time and again. If the party has failed to remove the JB stigma in the last 15 years, who should they blame? The people? ” quipped a very senior Congress leader talking to OST.