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Demoralised Congress fails to field candidates in 5 BMC wards

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Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Dec 24:

Jayadev Jena: In the line of fire
Jayadev Jena: In the line of fire

The Odisha Congress, which is struggling hard to galvanize the party cadres after the humiliating defeat in the first two phases of the urban local body (ULB) polls, has failed to put up candidates in all 67 wards of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the January 8 elections.

With the nomination paper of the Congress candidate from Ward No 9, Sima Dalei, having been rejected during scrutiny yesterday, the party will contest only in 62 wards of BMC. The ruling BJD, in contrast, has fielded candidates in all 67 wards while the BJP is contesting in 66 wards.

The sulking Congress appears to have already given up on winning the BMC elections apparently because many rebel candidates of the ruling party who are in the fray could divide the anti-BJD vote and seriously affect the chances of the Congress candidates.

No wonder senior leaders are not showing any inclination to campaign for party candidates, believing that their chances of winning are rather dim.

The BMC elections would undoubtedly be a litmus test for the PCC president Jayadev Jena, who is already facing the ire of party workers for failing to keep the flock together during the two earlier rounds of urban elections. The party’s failure to present a united front resulted in a total rout of the party in western Odisha, a region where the party had done commendably well even during the BJD sweep in the 2009 Assembly elections.

The possibility of a change in guard in the PCC is also haunting the party rank and file while the dissidents are biding their time in the party hoping that, at least this time, they will have last laugh by getting the coveted post.

“Neither the party leadership nor the workers are showing any interest to jump into the campaign for the BMC polls to ensure the victory of the party candidates. It seems the party has already accepted defeat before the scheduled polls. Unless the party workers are galvanized, the party will face a similar defeat in the coming days,” said a senior leader of Congress.

The morale of the party went down even more after the refusal of vice-president of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) Rahul Gandhi to meet a delegation led by Jena in New Delhi on Saturday. Rahul’s rebuff has given an impression that the state leadership no longer has the backing of the high command.

The statement of Union Minister Srikant Jena against the party’s three time Chief Minister Janaki Ballav Patnaik has also not gone down well among the Congress leaders, who apprehend that Jena’s unprovoked attack could let the party down at election time.

On Monday, the Union Minister had said that JB Patnaik had done nothing for the people of Odisha during his 15 years of chief ministership, a claim that the party leaders are not ready to buy.

“To my knowledge, Odisha was the seventh in the list of poor states during JB Patnaik’s tenure. But now, it is at the bottom. Those who have done nothing for the state should not point finger to others,” said senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik.

Party leaders feel that Jena’s untimely outburst would affect the party’s chances not just in the BMC polls, but also the 2014 Assembly elections.

Meanwhile, the PCC president has called for an extended executive meeting of the party on December 29. AICC general secretary in-charge, Odisha, B K Hariprasad will attend the meeting.

The OPCC president, however, said the party will formally launch the campaign for the BMC polls on December 27, which will be attended by several senior leaders.