Bhubaneswar: A day after Congress’s yet another electoral rout in the State, two heavyweights from the grand old party- Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) President Niranjan Patnaik and Odisha Congress Campaign Committee chairman Bhakta Charan Das- stepped down from their post owning moral responsibility for the shocking poll defeat of their party.
The party, which is reduced to third spot in political firmament of the State, ended in a single digit wining 9 out of the 146 assembly seats while it managed to win Koraput parliament seat. Odisha has strength of 21 Lok Sabha seat. While BJD emerged victorious in 12 seats, BJP won in eight seats for the lower house. With Congress’s fortunes taking a severe beating, BJP has emerged as the opposition party in the assembly winning 23 seats.
Both Patnaik and Das have sent in their resignation to party boss Rahul Gandhi owning responsibility for the party’s poll debacle in the State.
Odisha Congress Patnaik, a minister during the eighties and nineties in the State, tried his electoral luck from two seats- Ghasipura (Keonjhar) and Bhandaripokari (Bhadrak) seats- but lost both the seat to BJD opponents. Nabajyoti Patnaik, Niranjan’s son, also lost polls from Balasore Lok Sabha seat. Similarly Das, a congress heavyweight from western Odsha and former union minister, bit the dust from Kalahandi Lok Sabha seat, relegated to the third spot in the triangular contest. BJP State president Basant Panda won the polls defeating BJD nominee from the seat. Das’s son also lost the election from Bhawaniptana assembly seat.
The Congress’s utter rout could be gauged from the fact that two of its Pradesh Congress Committee presidents- Jayadev Jena and Prasad Harichandan suffered humiliating defeats from Anandpur and Satyabadi assembly seats.
Congress, which was once a power house and ruled the state for 15 years from 1980-2000, has apparently rock bottom in Odisha’s political scenario. Many of its candidates have lost deposits in the twin polls. It’s electoral success in nine assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat was apparently due to popularity of candidates. The party has nothing to do with it. The saving grace for the grand old party is that three senior leaders Narasingha Mishra, Tara Prasad Bahinipati and Suresh Routray have made it the assembly tiding over strong Naveen wave.
The Congress is on a steady decline since 2000 when it lost to BJD-BJP alliance in assembly polls. Since then, the party’s fortune is on a steady downslide. Its worst humiliation was witnessed in 2017 panchayat polls when it managed to win just 66 of the 849 zilla parishad seats. Its votes’ percentage plummeted to 18%, an all-time low. BJP which polled 32% votes in rural body polls pushed Congress to third spot in Odisha’s political firmament. The steady decline of the party in electoral politics could be gauged from the fact that In the 2014 assembly polls, 40 of the party’s 147 candidates had lost their security deposits. Exact figure of number of Congress candidates who lost security deposits is yet to be compiled.
Ahead of the polls, several of its leaders including incumbent MLAs had quit the party either to join BJD or BJP. The party was also face to face with further humiliation with candidates shying away from contest and returning tickets allotted to them.