Niranjan keeps all guessing, resentment brews in Odisha Cong
They high command have not taken any decision in regard to resignation letter two years ago, he said adding I am not supposed to tell the press what I have written to the AICC recently. Seventy-three-year-old Patnaik has been OPCC president since 2018 during which the party has witnessed an electoral downslide including in the 2019 general elections for Lok Sabha and State Assembly.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik Thursday said he will continue to head the state unit of the Congress as long as the party high command wishes. Patnaik's statement came in the backdrop of Congress's dismal performance in the recently concluded by-polls in Pipili assembly seat.
The party candidate Biswowkeshan Harichandan Mohapatra lost his deposit and secured only 4,261 votes out of the 1,80,930 votes polled in the by-polls held on September 30, results of which were announced on October 3.
“The post of the OPCC president is not permanent and my continuation as president is the internal affair of Congress. I have written to AICC before Pipili bypoll and am waiting for its decision. Till the AICC takes any decision, I will continue as OPCC president. As long as I am in charge of OPCC, I will work for the party,” Patnaik told the reporters here Thursday.
Though Patnaik did not divulge whether he has tendered his resignation following the Pipili debacle, Patnaik made it clear that his offer of resignation made in 2019 still remained with the party high command. ''They (high command) have not taken any decision in regard to resignation letter two years ago, he said adding “I am not supposed to tell the press what I have written to the AICC recently.'' Seventy-three-year-old Patnaik has been OPCC president since 2018 during which the party has witnessed an electoral downslide including in the 2019 general elections for Lok Sabha and State Assembly. Congress candidates have also performed dismally in four by-elections held in the state since the 2019 general elections.
With the party steadily witnessing an erosion of its voter base across the state, murmurs of resentment over Patnaik’s leadership have started surfacing.
A section of party workers staged a demonstration in front of the party’s state headquarters and demanded Patnaik’s removal. The vote percentage of the Congress candidate in Pipili by-poll was just 2.36 percent against 5.63 per cent in 2019 assembly elections in the same constituency.
Barring a by-poll in Tirtol assembly segment held in November 2020, the Congress candidates have all lost their depoits in the by-elections to Bijepur, Balasore and now Pipili, held since 2019 general elections. Incidentally Balasore assembly segment comes under Patnaik’s son Nabajyoti’s Balasore Lok Sabha segment.
Patnaik himself also lost in the two assembly segments where he contested in the 2019 elections.
Meanwhile, party sources said that Cuttack MLA Mohammed Moquim, former minister Sarat Rout, former OPCC president Sarat Patnaik, Bhakta Das and some other names are making rounds for the state Congress’s top post. From among the front runner for the post, Moquim is the lone leader who won the 2019 elections, while all others lost in the polls.
With Niranjan Patnaik keeping everybody guessing on his next step, senior Congress MLA Suresh Routray said: “Niranjan should make its clear whether he has resigned or not. There is no point in keeping the people and the party in dark. The party high command should also make it clear whether they intend to retain Patnaik as the PCC president.” PTI AAM JRC JRC
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