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Party workers slam Congress infighting

AICC leaders BK Hariprasad and Subhankar Sarkar discuss reasons behind party’s poll debacle in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections at Congress Bhavan in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 28: Angry protests were witnessed in the Odisha Congress headquarters here as party workers alleged that the leadership had ignored them.

All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of Odisha B.K. Hariprasad met all its Assembly and Lok Sabha candidates to find out reasons behind the poll debacle.

Yesterday, he met the district Congress committee presidents.

A party worker said they wanted to put forth their views and suggestions to revamp the party. “But, we were not given scope to ventilate our views,” he said.

Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jaydev Jena said the aggrieved workers would be given time in the next phase. Hariprasad, however, refused to comment on the incident.

During interaction with the AICC leaders, a few defeated candidates blamed internal sabotage for their defeat. Yudhisthir Samantray, who lost Assembly election from the Pipili constituency, accused three senior leaders — Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, Prasad Harichandan and Niranjan Patnaik — for his defeat.

All the three leaders refuted the allegation. Harichandan offered to face disciplinary action if the allegation can be proved. “There is not an iota of truth in this allegation. All 131 Assembly candidates and 21 Lok Sabha candidates, who have been defeated, are now blaming some one or the other. If they were defeated for me this time, why did they lose previous elections,” said Patnaik, the former PCC president.

Hariprasad said: “What I gather is that infighting was the main reason. It’s time to stop fighting with each other and fight against the BJD and the BJP, who are our enemies.”

Hariprasad said he would prepare a roadmap for Odisha based on the feedback that he received during his interaction with the party leaders, who had broadly identified five reasons for the party’s dismal performance. They were infighting, delay in selection of candidates, insufficient party funds to match the BJD, exodus of some prominent leaders to the ruling party and frequent change in PCC leadership.

However, some senior leaders disapproved the meeting called by the AICC in-charge and the PCC chief.

“They are responsible for the party’s debacle. How come the accused sit in judgement,” asked veteran leader and former chief minister Hemananda Biswal, who met AICC president Sonia Gandhi. Former Union minister K.C. Lenka described Hariprasad’s meeting as a “farce”.