Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, May 5:
Coming under sharp criticism from party leaders for his vanishing act during the elections despite being the chief of the campaign committee, Union Minister Srikant Jena today defended himself saying that he had no time left to campaign for other candidates in the state.
When asked about his his conspicuous absence from the campaign scene in Odisha, Jena told the leading Odia news channel OTV, “I was asked to contest the elections just four days before filing of nominations. And, I had told the party bosses that I can’t perform the duty of campaigning across the state and asked them to relieve me of that responsibility and assign the task to some other leader. However, the AICC general secretary who is in-charge of Odisha (BK Hariprasad) said he will himself look after it and that I need not bother,”
He also alleged that some persons were performing pujas in Guwahati for the last one month to ensure his defeat in the elections. But, as is his wont, he refused to spell out names while making the statement during the OTV interview.
However, several Congress leaders described Srikant’s Guwahati jibe as a wild allegation designed to prepare grounds to explain away his poor performance at the hustings.
“Such statements can come only from weak leaders who apprehend defeat. He toyed with the idea of contesting from Kandhamal and Kendrapara because he knew he would not be able to retain his Baleswar seat. At the same time he realised he had little chance in Kendrapara and kandhamal. His indecision resulted in undue delay in announcement of names of party candidates and he had no option than to stick to Baleswar after party bosses put their foot down, ” said a senior Congress leader.
A Congress leader who is a party candidate in an Assembly seat in Jajpur district reacted sharply to Srikant’s statements and said,” Both Jenas have lost their mental balance. Both fear they will lose and are now looking for petty excuses. If some people in Guwahati were praying for his defeat, he had got roped in the party president Sonia Gandhi to campaign for him. If he loses even after Sonia ji’s campaign, he should look inwards and stop finger-pointing.”