| File picture of Jagdish Tytler (right) at a rally in Bhubaneswar with state Congress leaders |
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 10: The Congress has been thrown into a tizzy here following announcement of criteria by its state in-charge Jagdish Tytler for the allotment of party tickets for the next elections.
The majority is rattled by Tytler’s decision not to give tickets to leaders who have lost two consecutive elections for this could mean curtains for most of the senior leaders of the party. The state in-charge is also not in favour of more than one member of a family being fielded in the elections which again could hit the interests of some influential leaders.
But it is the twice-defeat criterion that has triggered maximum resentment among the leaders who point out that if sincerely applied, the yardstick could result in the elimination of some of the stalwarts in the 41-member executive committee of the party, which is packed with the favourites of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik.
The OPCC executive members almost certain to lose tickets on the ground of having tasted defeat twice consecutively include Kishore Chandra Patel, Sk Matlub Ali, Ganeswar Behera, Suresh Kumar Routray and Sarat Rout. All of them are former ministers.
Axe would also hang over the heads of the OPCC’s permanent invitees such as former speaker Chintamani Dyan Samantray and former ministers Prakash Chandra Deveta, Ramakanta Mishra, Jagannath Patnaik and Ramakrushna Patnaik. The fate of former OPCC president Sarat Patnaik and former MPs Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Ranjib Biswal would also become uncertain.
While OPCC president Niranajan Patnaik refused to comment on the issue leaving it to the discretion of the All India Congress Committee, senior party leader Narasinga Mishra said once the central leadership took a call, all would have to abide by it.
“As Congress members, all will have to abide by the decision of the AICC,” he said.
Former finance minister Ramkrushan Patnaik appeared rattled. “I was elected a member of the Assembly for seven times beginning 1971. The AICC will certainly look into this aspect while considering my case. Defeat in a few elections should not matter while deciding on such issues,” he said.
Former minister and former speaker of the Assembly Kishore Chandra Patel, who lost consecutive elections from Sundergarh in 2000 and 2004 but did not contest in 2009, said: “I have won elections several times for the party. But if the party decides to deny me ticket, I will still continue to serve it.”
Speaking in the same vein, former MP Ranjib Biswal said: “One does not need to be an MP or MLA to serve the people. I can help strengthen the party even otherwise. Since a senior leader has taken the decision, we will abide by it.”
Former Union minister K.C. Lenka hurried to clarify that he was not in the race for the party ticket. “Since I have decided not to contest in the next election, there is no question of my feeling aggrieved,” he said.
On the other hand, an aggrieved leader, who did not wish to be quoted, said such a criteria should not be followed as it might prove counter-productive.
“Such a yardstick should not be followed. The Congress lost the elections in 2009 because of a wrong strategy. Another error of judgement will finish the party. If this yard-stick is applied, nearly 70 per cent Congress leaders will be out of the race and lose interest in the elections which are due in 2014,” he said.
Sources said that if the criteria were applied, the Congress might face a rout in the coastal belt where it is gearing up for a battle with the Biju Janata Dal.
Former minister, Sarat Rout, a stalwart from this belt, said: “ I am sure a single yardstick won’t decide the fate of party leaders. The most important criterion should be winnability.”
Party sources said that the decision not to give tickets to more than one member of a family might also trigger resentment and change equations within the party. The worst-hit would be OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik himself as his younger brother Soumya Rajan Patnaik might also desire a ticket. Similarly, state youth Congress president Sangram Jena may find his ambitions stymied by his father Jaydev Jena. Yet another victim could be from the Biswal family as both Ranjib and Chiranjib Biswal happen to be high-profile Congress leaders.