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Leaders put blame on Jenas

- Poll debacle leads to internal strife in state Congress
Jaydev Jena and (right) Srikant Jena

Bhubaneswar, May 23: The Congress’s poll debacle in the state has triggered resentment in the party, which appeared directionless with Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Jaydev Jena maintaining a distance from the its affairs after the elections.

The party newly elected 16 legislators are yet to be formally contacted by the PCC, although they were administered oath of office today by the protem Speaker in the Assembly.

Internal strife seemed to have raised its ugly head with a powerful section in the party gunning Jaydev Jena and state’s poll campaign committee chairman Srikant Jena holding them responsible for poll mismanagement in the state.

The tussle for supremacy is also casting its shadow on the selection of the new Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader.

The new leader will enjoy the status of the leader of Opposition as the party has managed to get a little over 10 per cent of the seats in the 147-member Assembly.

“If one goes by legislative experience and leadership ability, former law minister Narasingha Mishra will be the ideal person to lead the party,” said an MLAs.

However, a powerful section is said to be working over time to ensure that Mishra, who was deputy leader of the CLP in 2004, was denied the coveted post.

Another senior Congress MLA, Chiranjeev Biswal, whose name is doing the rounds for the post, said: “I have no idea about when the CLP will meet and elect its new leader.”

Jaydev Jena said: “I have no idea on this issue. According to the practice, the AICC will send an observer and the general secretary-in-charge of Odisha to elect the new CLP leader. There has been no communication to the PCC to this effect from the AICC.”

He said: “I own the responsibility for the party’s poor performance and have already informed it to AICC president Sonia Gandhi.”

Asked whether he has stepped down from the party post, he said: “In a government organisation, one resigns. In our party set up, the issue is different. Whatever the party decides, I will abide by it. I am a disciplined soldier.”

Former PCC president Niranjan Patnaik said: “The reasons for the defeat should be sought from two leaders, Jaydev Jena and Srikant Jena.”

The Congress’s dismal performance could be gauged from the fact that the party’s tally in the Assembly came down from 27 to 16. In the Lok Sabha, the party could not open its account. In 75 Assembly segments, the party finished second.

“Our seniors are busy trying to settle scores against each other. I don’t see a bright future for the party. With a BJP government at the Centre, the Congress will have to fight hard to remain as the principal contender for power in the state,” said a district Congress unit president.

Such was the defeat that the party failed to register its presence in 20 districts. With a 6 per cent swing in favour of it, the BJD had a landslide victory in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. But a drop of about 6.7 per cent in the Congress’s vote share led to complete rout of the party. The vote share of the Congress slid to 26 per cent in this Lok Sabha poll as compared to 32.75 per cent in 2009.

“The BJP’s vote share mounted to 21.5 per cent from 16.89 per cent. It has taken away the Congress’s votes,” said a senior Congress leader.


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