Congress expels former union minister Srikant Jena and Dalit MLA
Ahead of Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Odisha on January 25, turbulence continues to rock the grand old party with the state unit expelling former union minister Srikant Jena and another Dalit leader from Koraput late Saturday evening on charges of anti-party activities.
In a statement issued by the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) disciplinary committee, senior leader Anant Sethi said the former union minister and former Koraput MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria have been expelled for their continuous anti-party comments.
“Both Jena and Sagaria have been expelled from the party as per the approval of the All India Congress Committee,” Sethi said in a statement.
Ever since he was removed as chairman of OPCC manifesto committee in December last year, Jena has been sharply critical of State PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik. Soon after his removal, he resigned from all party posts. “The Congress has to take a decision on whether it wants to do politics with the help of the Patnaik family or whether it is with 94 per cent of the people of Odisha. I will travel to the villages of the state and unmask these corrupt leaders,” Jena had said last month. The former minister had lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Balasore seat.
Last month, while on dharna demanding waiver of farm loans, Jena had said Naveen Patnaik’s Kalia scheme will be a burden for State Government which has not collected Rs 50,000 crore from ‘mining mafia’ in an indirect reference to PCC chief. Niranjan Patnaik’s extended family were named in the Odisha mining scam. Jena had also created a stir in the party demanding that Congress declare a Dalit face as the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2019 assembly elections.
Sagaria, also expelled along with Jena, was the lone Dalit MLA of the Congress in the party. He had quit from the post of general secretary of the Odisha PCC in October, after he was removed from the post of chief of party’s Dalit cell. Two days ago he had openly challenged PCC chief saying no one can deprive him of party ticket in 2019 polls.
The Congress is in dire straits in Odisha with its working president Naba Kishore Das and tribal MLA Jogesh Singh resigning from the party to join BJD last week. At least six more sitting MLAs are likely to quit and join the BJD.
With just 16 seats in 2014 Assembly polls, Congress recorded its worst-ever performance in its electoral history winning just 25.7 per cent of the votes polled. Had it secured 2 less seats, it would have even forefeited the right to get the Leader of Opposition status in the Assembly. Following the defections of Naba Kishore Das and Jogesh Sing and the expulsion of Sagaria, its strength in the House has come down to 13.
In the 2017 panchayat polls, The Congress’ its vote share slumped to less than 20 per cent as the party conceded the main opposition tag to the BJP.