Odisha Sun Times Political Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 21:
Odisha Congress campaign committee head and Union minister Srikant Jena is now reportedly lobbying hard to get the party ticket for Kendrapara parliamentary seat because he is ‘apprehensive’ about contesting from his old seat Baleswar, reliable sources in the party said.
According to the sources, Jena feels he does not have the shred of a chance in Baleswar where is pitted against two very strong contenders – BJD’s Rabindra Kumar Jena and BJP’s Pratap Sarangi. On top of that he does not enjoy the support and confidence of local Congress leaders, who are cut up with him mostly due to the rash manner in which he has dealt with them in the past.
However, the party high command has not liked the idea of the chief of the state campaign committee developing cold feet at the last minute, the sources said, adding, the state PCC chief is apparently not in favour of Srikant Jena contesting from Kendrapara.
“Such a move will send out a very wrong signal to the party workers as well as voters across the state. A man who has been posing to have been the Congress chief ministerial candidate should not be chickening out in such manner,” a senior Congress leader of undivided Baleswar district said.
The Union minister has neither confirmed nor denied the reports of his plan to shift to Kendrapara. ” I will contest from wherever the party decides to field me,” he said when asked about his unwillingness to contest from Baleswar.
Party insiders say Jena wanted the party ticket for an assembly seat of his choice but that idea was shot down by both the PCC and AICC leaders who asked him to defend his Baleswar Lok Sabha seat. In fact more than the AICC, it is the PCC which is strongly opposed to Jena’s re-entry into state politics, sources said.
Political grapevine has a ‘story’ to offer.
Apparently, Jena was promised by certain’friendly’ BJD leaders that they would put up a ‘weak’ candidate in Baleswar and in return, Jena had assured that his party would reciprocate by fielding greenhorns against them. But that did not happen after the BJD bosses smelled a rat after the Congress announced its first list of Odisha Lok Sabha candidates.
Worried over a humiliating defeat in Baleswar, Jena wants to migrate to his old constituency Kendrapara where he can rely on “clandestine support” from the local BJD leaders opposed to the sitting MP Jay Panda. He has reportedly been assured of ‘all help’ from them, the grapevine sources said.
While sources close to the Union minister have dismissed the grapevine reports as baseless and untrue, the actual reason why Jena wants to desert his old seat and head for Kendrapara still remains a mystery.