The Congress has finally shown veteran leader J.B. Patnaik — who was CM for nearly 14 years — the door.
JB was denied a party ticket to contest from any assembly or Lok Sabha constituency. After he stepped down as Congress Legislature Party leader on January 24, there was a question mark on his future in the party. He had lobbied hard by camping in Delhi for several days but the party’s Central Election Committee dashed his hopes when it released its list, comprising the names of 16 Lok Sabha and 142 assembly candidates, on Saturday.
JB is currently a legislator from Begunia assembly constituency in Khurda district. The Congress has named Pradeep Sahu, a greenhorn, to contest from Begunia.
Party leaders in Orissa are divided over the decision. A leader known for his proximity to JB told HT: “Patnaik’s roots are deeply entrenched in the party. The move can boomerang”. His detractors, however, said: “Patnaik was a liability and this decision to deny him a ticket will send the right message to the electorate. It will help the Congress make electoral gains.” Congress spokesperson Kailash Acharya said, “Patnaik is a senior leader and it will not matter much to him whether he is given a ticket or not.”
The party is yet to announce candidates for five more Lok Sabha and assembly seats each. Of the five LS seats, Sundargarh, Nowrangpur and Mayurbhanj are reserved and hence, out of bounds for JB. PCC president K.P. Singhdeo is almost certain to contest from Dhenkanal, which leaves Kandhamal, from where JB is unlikely to contest, party sources said. Similarly, he is unlikely to contest from the remaining five assembly constituencies either.
“I did not want to contest this time. Without contesting elections, I had campaigned for the party in 1990 and 1995 assembly elections. I will campaign for the party again,” JB said.