In 'storm-hit' Orissa, BJP, Cong have only failed warriors

For the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the two national parties that received a severe drubbing at the hands of the regional outfit the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the recently concluded Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Orissa, controlling infighting within their local units will be a major challenge in the coming days.

Blame game has already begun in both the parties with senior leaders accusing each other for their outfits’ dismal performance in the twin polls.

Observers believe that there is a need for both to keep their houses in order to counter the BJD, which has emerged as a more powerful political force in the state than the two national parties. That can only be possible if the party leaders stop fighting with each other.

In the state unit of the Congress, a section of leaders has already begun the ground work for the removal of K P Singhdeo from the post of Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee president holding his ‘poor leadership qualities’ squarely responsible for the party’s disastrous performance in the recent polls.

Though the party has not yet officially held a post-mortem of the election results in the state (according to PCC sources, it will be conducted during the forthcoming visit of the party’s Orissa in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad), a group of state party leaders had informally met in Bhubaneswar recently.

They reportedly discussed about the reorganisation of the party’s state unit, including appointment of a new Pradesh Congress Committee president.

“The party has to start afresh in the state and begin preparations for the next Assembly and Lok Sabha polls right now and for that we need a new leader to head the PCC,” a senior state Congress leader who did not want to be quoted said.

Giving a second chance

However, independent observers as well as a section of the Congress leaders within the state unit of the party are of the view that Singhdeo should be given another chance as he had not been provided with enough opportunities to prove his capabilities.

Singhdeo was appointed the PCC chief just a couple of months before the elections. He was not given a free-hand in the selection of candidates. Poor selection of candidates had played a key role in the party’s drubbing in the twin polls, observers say.
Like in the Congress, a section of state BJP leaders too has begun a move to remove the state unit president Suresh Pujari.

What has added to Pujari’s problem is the fact that he not only led his party to its worst ever performance in the twin polls (the BJP was able to get only five Assembly seats, while failing to open its account in the Lok Sabha this time), but he himself lost the polls while fighting from Brajrajnagar Assembly constituency in Jharsuguda district.

He had lost the seat during the 2004 Assembly elections too.

However, it may not be easy for the BJP central leadership to find a replacement for Pujari as all his possible successors within the state unit of the party like former state ministers, B B Harichandan and Manmohan Samal, former Union minister Joel Oram and former MPs, Dharmendra Pradhan and MAK Swain have been defeated in the twin polls.

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