Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 2:
Trouble never seems to end for the faction-ridden Congress in Odisha.
Less than a month after burying the hatchet following a much discussed rift, yet another public spat between AICC spokesperson Bhakta Das and Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Prasad Harichandan during a meeting to observe the 10th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) here led to embarrassment for the party today.
Even though both Prasad and Bhakta denied it, media went berserk and television channels started airing visuals of the alleged spat that cooled down only after the intervention of AICC deputy in-charge in Odisha Subhankar Sarkar.
The incident occurred after PCC chief invited former Narla block chairman Ashok Chand to address the meeting.
Reports said Bhakta, who was sitting in a corner, went livid as Chand proceeded to speak and walked up to Prasad to counter him over the issue. He allegedly pointed out that Chand had left the party and doesn’t deserve the honour.
Both argued over the issue for couple of minutes while seated on the dais in full public view until Sarkar and PCC spokesperson Ganeshwar Behera intervened to calm them down. Unfortunately, that was the only couple of minutes that Chand got to speak as he had to end his address abruptly within two minutes flat.
Upon being quizzed by reporters after the event, both the leaders denied the incident.
“There has been no argument. I just asked him to give me a chance to speak a little earlier as I have to go back to Kalahandi,” said Bhakta.
“He didn’t express displeasure. I only asked him to cut his speech short when he addresses the meeting. If anyone bears a grudge, please go and ask him,” said a visibly agitated Prasad.
Ashok Chand, however, indirectly spilled the beans.
“I was a member of the Congress. I had joined Samajwadi Party for a while, but I returned back to fold after Gobardhan Das took over as Kalahandi district president of the party. I had many things to speak on the implementation of MNREGS in Narla, but I couldn’t take them up because of the situation,” said Chand speaking to reporters.
Interestingly, the incident took place only about half an hour after Leader of Opposition in Odisha Assembly Narasingha Mishra in his address at the meeting commented: “The party workers haven’t lost their spirit yet. It is the infighting among the leadership that mars the chances of this party.”
Notably, rifts are nothing new for trouble-torn Congress.
About two days back, its youth wing cancelled a high profile meeting named ‘Yuva Garjan Samavesh’ that was scheduled to be held today as a parallel event. Two of its most prominent leaders – PCC Chief Prasad and Lulu Mohapatra were engulfed in a cold war over egg pelting politics only few weeks back, the shadow of which remain to this day.
About two more weeks back, it was a public spat between Prasad and Bhakta over the selection of Kalahandi district congress committee president and a major lobbying against each other at AICC level about two more months back. And, these are among the few that have been reported.