Reported by Chinmaya Dehury/Edited by Sandeep Sahu
Bhubaneswar, Oct 5:
The tension simmering within the state unit of the Congress since the unceremonious expulsion of senior leader Soumya Ranjan Patnaik from the party boiled over on Saturday with supporters of Patnaik and PCC chief Jaydev Jena indulging in violence inside the Congress Bhavan premises here.
While Patnaik’s supporters went on a rampage breaking glass panes and chairs inside the Congress Bhavan, Jena supporters retaliated in the evening by demolishing a tent set up by the former and beating up those inside.
Shorrtly after noon, supporters of Patnaik burnt the effigies of the PCC chief and Union minister Srikant Jena, who they believe were instrumental in his expulsion from the party, and shouted slogans against them.
“While we were holding a meeting, some youth entered the premises shouting slogans in favour of Sounya Ranjan Patnaik, entered a hall in the main building and ransacked the office. They also burnt effigies of PCC president and Srikant Jena,” said Samir Routray, a Congress leader.
In apparent retaliation, another group of youth, suspected to be supporters of Yuva Congress president and PCC chief’s son Sangram Jena, barged into the tent set up by Patnaik’s supporters in the evening and soundly thrashed the inmates.
Reacting to the incident, Patnaik said he had no knowledge about what exactly transpired at Congress Bhavan since he was away in Cuttack. “But I am told some people demolished a tent erected by my supporters and beat them up while they were holding a peaceful dharna,” he told OST.
About the earlier incident in the afternoon, the former Bhubaneswar MP said some Congress workers from Khurda, who had organised the Sankalp Yatra in the town, had gone to ask the PCC President about their status as members of the party since the AICC general secretary in charge of Odisha affairs BK Hariprasad had attributed his expulsion to the Sankalp Yatra, on Friday.
“The workers resented this because the Sankalp rallies at different places were organised by local Congress workers and not by me. I was only invited to address the rallies organised by local leaders and workers, who were eager to see the Congress return to power in Odisha. Sankalp Abhijan was never my personal campaign,” Patnaik said.
The rival camps have lodged FIRs against each other at the Capital police station and the Mahila police station. While OPCC filed an FIR at the Capital police station in connection with the violence in Congress Bhavan in the afternoon, Namita Panda, a follower of Patnaik, lodged an FIR at the Mahila police station charging OPCC president’s son Sangram Jena with misbehaving with her in the presence of his father and PCC president Jayadev Jena during the demonstration.
“We have received two FIRs. One from OPCC president Jaydev Jena group and another from a person supported by Soumya Ranjan Patnaik,” ACP Pradeep Kumar Patnaik said.
Panda, the women’s wing president of Khurda district Congress, alleged that Sangram, president of the state Youth Congress, and his friends misbehaved with her in the presence of Jaydev Jena.