Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau:
Bhubaneswar, Dec 24:
What started as a lone voice on Monday turned into a chorus by Tuesday with a host of senior leaders in the Odisha Congress joining the clamour to bring expelled leader Soumya Ranjan Patnaik back into the party fold.
Veteran Congress leader JB Patnaik had set the ball rolling on Monday by calling for the return of ‘capable’ and ‘intelligent’ people who had been shown the door by the party without actually naming Soumya Ranjan.
As if on cue, old JB loyalist Ananta Sethi on Tuesday batted for the Ama Odisha Party president saying; “I was utterly disappointed with the manner in which Soumya Babu was thrown out of the party. Not just him, other expelled leaders should also be brought back to the party. This would only strengthen the party.”
The voluble Suresh Routray sought to draw a link between the efforts of the Congress high command to revive the party and the return of Soumya Ranjan to the party. “Congress Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi have signalledthe cadres to invigorate the party. Soumya Babu has made an exit only recently. His return would be welcome. It would be a homecoming for him. He would be an asset to the party,” he said.
Ever the diplomat, former PCC president Niranjan Patnaik said; “It is upto Soumya Babu to decide whether he wants to rejoin the party.And it is upto the party to decide whether he should be taken back to the party.”
But even while playing the diplomat, the senior Patnaik left no one in doubt about where his sympathies lay when he added; “Soumya Ranjan had not quit the party. He was thrown out of the party unceremoniously. The party needs capable people and everybody should unite to strengthen the party.”
Though senior Congress leader and former Railway minister Kanhu Charan Lenka had a different take on Soumya Ranjan’s ouster, he still batted for the latter’s return to the party. “Soumya Babu had been expelled because of his indiscipline. After all, he had called the high command ‘nonsense’. In order to come to the party fold, Soumya Babu will have to appeal to the high command stating that he is repentant for breaching party discipline. This is the Congress’ tradition. Then only he can return to the party.”
PCC chief Jaidev Jena, during whose tenure as PCC chief Soumya Ranjan was expelled, was predictably non-committal. “Party decisions are not taken at individual level. I cannot decide on Soumya Babu’s return to the party. It is the high command which takes a call on such matters,” he said.
Just about the lone voice of dissent was Congress spokesperson Sarat Rout, who said; “It would do more harm than good to the party if people who were involved in anti-party activities and indiscipline are accepted back in the party.”
The man at the centre of it all, however, appeared to be in no mood let bygones be bygones.“The senior party leaders did not raise an objection when I was expelled. How can they now speak about principles? If they want to organise the party, they should introspect and change their attitude,” Soumya Ranjan said.
Still smarting from the treatment meted out to him, he asked; “Do the people who are talking about this have the right or authority to discuss all these things?”
Asked about the chances of his return to the Congress, he said; “It is the Congress party that had expelled me. And it is for the Congress to decide whether they need me.”