Bhubaneswar, Feb. 28: Political barometer in the state indicates a storm with Congress veteran and Opposition leader Bhupinder Singh in the eye of it.
Speculation over the political future of Singh, a former minister hailing from west Odisha, has reached a feverish pitch with strong rumours that he has resigned as the leader of Congress legislature party, a prelude to switching loyalties.
Coming in the wake of Nayagarh district Congress president Hemendra Singh joining the BJD, the sudden cloud of suspicion over Bhupinder has thrown the state Congress in a tizzy.
“Singh has been asked to resign by the party high command,” said a senior Congress leader, who is a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). However, AICC general secretary in charge of Odisha affairs B.K. Hariprasad tried to side step the issue.
“I have not received any communication from Singh (about his resignation.) The PCC might be knowing about it.” However, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jaydev Jena maintained a cryptic silence. “ I have no idea,” was the only quote from him.
Bhupinder himself was incommunicado. Sources said that he had been running high temperature and was at the SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack. He is said to be suffering from severe urinary infection.
A section of Congress leaders discussed in hushed tones the role he had played during the recent Rajya Sabha elections. Refusing to divulge details, they said that the party high command did not like the way he mediated between certain Congress MLAs and the party’s Rajya Sabha candidate, Ranjib Biswal who won the polls. This has upset the Congress central leadership.
The leadership is also said to be miffed with him for demanding the party ticket for the Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat. “The leadership has taken a decision in principle to give the ticket to sitting MP Bhakta Charan Das. With Bhupinder seeking to pit himself against Das, the AICC bosses got upset,” said a senior leader.
While the Congress is still battling internal problems, the BJP has come out with its first list of candidates for Lok Sabha from the state. The list includes Rudra Narayan Pani (Dhenkanal), Suresh Pujari (Sambalpur), Parshuram Majhi (Nabarangpur), Sangeeta Singh Deo (Balangir), Jual Oram (Sundergarh) and Baidhar Mallick ( Jagatsinghpur).
However, the party seems to be in a quandary over the Balasore seat with Utkal Bharat president Kharvela Swain, who had parted ways with the BJP a few years ago, keen to contest from the constituency as an alliance partner. Swain, who held talks with BJP state affairs in-charge Chandan Mitra recently, apparently hopes for support from the saffron outfit in his bid to regain the seat. But it is going to be a tough call for the party as its associate member and Nilgiri MLA, Pratap Sarangi has evinced interest in the Balasore Lok Sabha seat.
The ruling BJD, on the other hand, is in the final stages of clearing the names of party candidates for Lok Sabha. The party is also gearing up to organize the birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik on March 5 in a big way, Coinciding with this, the party would also hold a youth convention in Bhubaneswar and conventions for women and farmers at Berhampur and Sambalpur, respectively, all with an eye on the elections.