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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Congress leaders also responsible for party’s decline in Odisha: Niranjan Patnaik

Newly-appointed Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik says he will work to end party factionalism in the state.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2018 07:54 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Niranjan Patnaik was recently appointed party chief of Congress in Odisha.
Niranjan Patnaik was recently appointed party chief of Congress in Odisha.(HT Photo)

Newly-appointed Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik says he has taken over at a difficult time and that his main challenge is to regain the number two position from the BJP. In an interview to Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, he also blames Congress leaders for the party’s decline in Odisha. Edited excerpts:

What is the biggest challenge for you?

I have been appointed at a difficult time.

I became Odisha Congress president because of the support of numerous party workers and sympathisers. Rahul Gandhi responded to their desire. It’s a very difficult job.

In the recent past, several senior leaders have deserted the Congress? Will you try to bring them back to the party fold?

My heart may be closed but my arms are open.

Those who really think that Odisha should improve and develop, I will appeal to them to rejoin the Congress. But there are some who have joined the other parties for vested interests.

Do you blame the delay in decision­-making for this exodus?

Yes, there has been a lot of delay in taking decisions as far as the Odisha Congress is concerned. Had this decision been taken much before, things would have been different and much better for the Congress.

The BJP has emerged as the main opposition party in Odisha. How do you plan to regain that space?

We already are the number two party in the state and we are hopeful that things will change within the next 6-7 months. Had I got a minimum of two years, we could have even become the number one party. No doubt, the BJP is growing in Odisha and has managed to take our votes and also 5% of the BJD vote. But the trend is already changing not only in Odisha but in the entire country.

How strong is anti­-incumbency against the ruling BJD?

Anti-incumbency is there but the people of Odisha have no alternative. In the absence of a strong Congress and BJP, people voted for them (BJD). I can’t blame people for that. We can blame only ourselves. We have given them a walkover everywhere and as a political party we have not done our job properly. Congress has gone down because of the Congress’ people.

What is your realistic target for the 2019 state elections?

I will have to move around for next three months and find out the strengths and weaknesses. But I am confident that the people this time will respond to what the BJD has done in the past 18 years and what the BJP-led government at the Centre did for Odisha in the last four years.

But how do you intend to address the infighting?

I will embrace everybody and try to put an end to whatever little factionalism is there.