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JB era ends, Singhdeo PCC chief

delhi Updated: Jan 28, 2009 00:17 IST

Ahead of the assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Orissa, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has completely revamped the party in the state.

She appointed KP Singhdeo, former Union Minister and a royal scion of Dhenkanal, as the new Pradesh Congress Committee chief and gave him three working presidents to help the party take on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Biju Janata Dal.

The stage for creating a new team was set last week when a reluctant J.B.Patnaik was made to step down as legislature party leader, virtually marking the end of an era in the state where he strode like a colossus, his persona and style stifling the growth of new leaders.

But in a gesture to the octogenarian leader, Sonia inducted him with immediate effect into the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, and the Central Manifesto Committee. The CWC will meet on January 29 to finalise the party’s draft manifesto.She also named former Union Minister Srikant Jena as the new chairman of the party’s campaign committee.

Singhdeo, who was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1967 and was a familiar face in the Opposition benches in the House from 1999-2004, will now lead from the front with the help of three new working presidents drawn from different castes and areas to give the team a social and regional balance.

The working presidents nominated are Union Minister Chandra Sekhar Sahu, Lalatendu B. Mohapatra and Bhakta Charan Das belong to Berhampur (South Orissa), Brahmagiri (coastal Orissa) and Kalahandi (western Orissa) respectively.

“The team will take on Naveen Patnaik and the BJD in the state. All of them have a good and clean image and enjoy credibility,” said Ajay Maken, AICC general secretary in charge of Orissa.

On their part, Singhdeo and Mohapatra said that they would do their best to strengthen the party.