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Orissa rebels rush to Sonia

Bhubaneswar, July 13: After a brief lull, dissident activities in the Orissa Congress have gained momentum with rebels renewing their efforts to dislodge incumbent PCC chief Sarat Patnaik.

Barely a month after Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited Bhubaneswar to restore unity among the warring factions in the state, Sarat-baiters have started rushing to Delhi to plead their case with the party chief.

Yesterday, more than 15 rebels, including senior Congressman Bhagabat Prasad Mohanty and two legislators, boarded the Rajdhani Express to meet Sonia and request her to replace Sarat. The delegation included former Orissa Youth Congress president Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra. Congress sources said former chief ministers J.B. Patnaik and Hemenanda Biswal are already in New Delhi.

The sources said the dissidents would once again reiterate the need for a change of guard in view of the coming municipal elections. The rebels argue that Sarat’s reign as PCC chief during the last one-and-a-half years has been “disastrous”.

The beleaguered PCC chief, who had staved off stiff challenges from the rebels last month, seems to be on a strong wicket this time. Congress sources say that instead of giving any importance to the rebels, Sonia would use the opportunity to assess their loyalty to the party.

Since most of the rebels have hardly any popularity among the masses, the party president is likely to ask them to fall in line. If the rebels do not back Sonia’s protege in the state, their days in the party may be numbered, sources said.

However, a Congress rebel said if the leadership did not replace Sarat, they would resort to drastic steps.

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