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Congress Requires Resolve

Bhubaneswar: About 48 hours before the votes were counted for the 30 September by-election in Pipili Assembly segment, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik went on record saying that his party candidate was not winning the by-poll. “There is no such atmosphere for us to win by-poll there (Pipili). This is because attempts have been made by parties to regulate democracy through money power. We have not indulged in any such activities, rather focused on Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology and begged for votes,” the leader of the country’s oldest party told the media.

Niranjan claims money power might have played a role in Pipili. However, questions are raised in the political circle across the state whether money power dominated the elections for the first time? Was it not the case in Bijepur, Balasore and Trirtol by-polls and also during the 2019 general elections for State Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha?  

The Congress party, which has been out of power in Odisha for 20 long years and plays the role of opposition at the Centre since 2014, now claims that they lost the polls due to lack of money. Does only money decide the fate of a political party or a candidate?

Nobody denies that money has a role to play in elections, but it is not the only factor to win polls. The Congress which ruled Odisha for decades and remained out of power for over 21 years, however, tells a half-truth instead of going deep into the causes of the party’s failure in subsequent elections. And blaming the “prevailing atmosphere” should not be an excuse to cover up the failure of the leadership. Niranjan continues to remain as the OPCC President since 2018 and the party has declined steadily during his leadership.

The Congress, which polled 25.7% votes in Assembly elections and 26.63% votes in Lok Sabha polls in 2014, registered 16.2% and 13.81% percent votes in the 2019 elections. This is not all; after 2019 general elections, the party candidates have miserably lost all the three by-polls. The party is going down and down every day. Is it only for the money factor or due to the lack of mindset to win polls against Naveen Patnaik’s BJD government?

The fact remains that the Congress leaders have turned self-centric and leaders do not fight elections for the party as a whole, but as individuals. The old and chronic disease of infighting pulls down the Congress rather than money in the rival camps.

The Congress is deteriorating not because of the money power of the BJD or the BJP, but for its own fault, a fact that neither Niranjan nor anyone in the party is ready to accept. Unless the party pins down the real reason for the defeats, none can help the grand old party. Like anywhere across the country, the OPCC also lacks the leadership to unite the party. The leaders are quitting the party at regular intervals. There is a hot discussion in the political circle that OPCC Working President, prominent tribal leader and former Nabarangpur MP Pradip Majhi is joining the BJD. Though Majhi after meeting Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Friday claimed that he was in the party and shall continue to remain here, nobody believes him after his claim in an interview to a private news that there was no ideological difference between BJD and the Congress.

Former Kotpad Congress MLA Chandrasekhar Majhi recently joined BJD. He is not the lone leader of the oldest party who joined BJD. Prior to 2019 general elections, the then OPCC Working President Nabakishore Das, former MLA Anup Sai and former MP Chandrasekhar Sahoo had also joined BJD. While Das is a Cabinet Minister now in the Naveen Patnaik council of ministers, Sahoo is a Lok Sabha MP. Former Leader of Opposition Congress Bhupinder Singh had also joined the BJD in the past while former Congress Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang joined the BJP. The list is endless and all the incidents proved one thing that the successive Congress leadership in Odisha have failed to retain its leaders, leave alone the workers and supporters.

In Congress there is dearth of workers and supporters and the leaders are quitting the party on a continuous basis. Since 2000, the Congress High Command has changed the OPCC Presidents nine times. While the Congress was in quite a respectable position during J B Patnaik’s tenure, it has been dwindling ever since he was sidelined in Odisha politics. JB was OPCC President till 2004 and he was replaced by Jaydev Jena. Later Sarat Patnaik, K P Singhdeo and Prasad Harichandan became OPCC President before Niranjan Patnaik. All of them have failed to turn the fortunes of Congress in Odisha and its chronic disease still eats into the party and its prospects. Since the party is going down every day, it is quite natural that the young leaders like Pradip Majhi have reasons to go on searching for greener pastures in other parties.

The fountainhead of Congress in India is Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology.  The party due to overstay in power for decades, has worked all along against Mahatma’s ideology, rather wallowing on the images of fake Gandhis. Corruption, violence and other such factors which were strongly opposed by Mahatma became the mantra of success for Congress leaders across the country for which the party lost its pan Indian image and came to the condition when the oldest political outfit has been working as a younger partner of regional parties like RJD in Bihar.

The time has come for the Congress to infuse young and dynamic leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar in the party who can show determination to fight back. The party should be mentally determined to defeat either the BJP or the BJD. Sadly, the Congress candidate has lost the by-poll mentally even before the votes are counted. If the situation continues in the manner in which it is now, nobody will be surprised if people will turn down offers of Congress tickets to contest elections in 2024. And the party leaders should also keep it in mind that money is not the sole factor; it is rather the resolve of mind to fight it out.