GET Stock QuotesNews18 APP
News18 English
Powered by cricketnext logo
»
3-min read

OPINION | Herculean Task Ahead for New Odisha Congress Chief Niranjan Patnaik

Patnaik has the rather unenviable task of reviving the comatose party organisation, a task made all the more difficult by the fact that he has every conceivable odd stacked up against him.

Sandeep Sahu |

Updated:April 20, 2018, 12:19 PM IST
facebookTwittergoogleskypewhatsapp
OPINION | Herculean Task Ahead for New Odisha Congress Chief Niranjan Patnaik
Niranjan Patnaik replaced Prasad Harichandan as the Odisha PCC chief on Thursday.
When Prasad Harichandan predicted that the Congress in Odisha would soon have a ‘Nabakalebara’ (the ritual change of the wooden idol of Lord Jagannath every 12 or 19 years), he could not have imagined that it would involve his departure as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.

And when a skeptical Niranjan Patnaik quipped soon after Harichandan’s statement that there would be a ‘Nabakalebara’, but no ‘Brahma Parivartan’ (a secret ritual through which life is supposed to be infused into the wooden idol of Lord Jagannath), he was clearly giving expression to his frustration and disappointment that there would be no change of guard at the PCC.

Well, the ‘Brahma Parivartan’ did take place in the PCC and Harichandan was replaced with Patnaik by the AICC on Thursday.

But it is a moot question if this would be accompanied by a ‘Nabakalebara’ of the Odisha Congress as a whole. The party has gone so far down in the state that a revival looks well nigh impossible in the time for the next elections.

The most that Patnaik can hope to do before 2019, when Assembly elections in Odisha would be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls, is to arrest the slide, stem the exodus of party leaders and dispel the air of despondency that has gripped the average Congress worker in the state somewhat.



When he was inexplicably removed as the PCC president last time, almost five years to the day, Niranjan Patnaik had just led the party into a rare win in the elections for three newly created NACs: Atabira, Hindol and Nuapada.

In a supreme irony, he returns to the helm when the party has just managed the incredible ‘feat’ of drawing a blank in two out of these three NACs (the polls to the Nuapada NAC have been stayed by the Orissa High Court).

The whitewash in Atabira and Hindol came a month after the Congress lost its deposit in the by-election in the Bijepur Assembly constituency, a seat that the party had won three times in a row.

Patnaik thus has the rather unenviable task of reviving the comatose party organisation, a task made all the more difficult by the fact that he has every conceivable odd stacked up against him.

For one thing, he has to contend with the supporters of Harichandan, who is reported to have left in a huff midway through the meeting with the AICC leaders before the announcement about his replacement with Patnaik was made on Thursday.

For another, he has the onerous task of fighting the mighty, well-equipped armies of the BJD and the BJP with a ramshackle apology of an army consisting of dispirited, despondent and poorly armed soldiers.

The enormity of the task on hand makes the unstinted and unqualified support of the high command absolutely essential for Patnaik. But going by the other appointments announced along with his elevation as the PCC chief on Thursday, the high command does not appear too keen to give him a free hand in reshaping the party organisation in the state.

While making him PCC chief, it has saddled him with three working presidents: Jharsuguda MLA Naba Das, Tirtol MLA Chiranjib Biswal and former Nabanagpur MP Pradip Majhi.

The appointment of these three certainly limits the room to manoeuvre and makes Patnaik’s task all the more difficult. Then there are two heavyweights — old warhorse Bhakta Charan Das as the chairperson of the campaign committee and the wily Srikant Jena as the head of the manifesto committee — to contend with. It is also doubtful if he can develop the same kind of rapport and camaraderie with Jitendra Singh, the new AICC general secretary in charge of Odisha, which he had built with Jagdish Tytler in his last stint as the PCC chief.

Patnaik’s biggest task, however, would be to dispel the growing public perception that the Congress high command has struck a deal with the BJD to keep the BJP at bay. And that is easier said than done because of what happened in the past.

In his address to party workers after replacing Patnaik as the PCC chief in 2013, Jaydev Jena had claimed that he was removed as the PCC president on the eve of the 2009 elections at the ‘behest of’ Naveen Patnaik.

Niranjan would now have to prove — both through his utterances and his conduct — that his appointment was not the result of the machinations of the BJD supremo.

(The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

Also Watch

| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
Read full article