Congress revamps Odisha unit, appoints Niranjan Patnaik as new chief

Niranjan Patnaik made a comeback to the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president’s post from which he was removed a year before the 2014 elections.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2018 22:34 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Odisha,Niranjan Patnaik,Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee
Niranjan Patnaik has been appointed president of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee.(Photo: @NPatnaikOdisha/Twitter)

The Congress on Thursday appointed Niranjan Patnaik as its new state unit chief in Odisha, where elections are due next year.

Patnaik, 74, made a comeback to the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president’s post from which he was removed a year before the 2014 elections.

According to political analyst Rabi Das, Patnaik’s return is important for the faction-ridden Congress state unit which is seeing an exodus of leaders to the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Patnaik has the resources to lead the party. But it will be worth watching how he stops the party’s decline,” said Das.

The All India Congress Committee (AICC) also announced three working presidents — Naba Das, Pradip Majhi and Chiranjib Biswal — for Odisha. Dalit leader Bhakta Das was appointed the chief of the party’s campaign committee, while former Union minister Srikant Jena was chosen as chief of the manifesto committee.

Former chief minister and tribal leader Hemananda Biswal was picked to head the disciplinary committee.

Patnaik, who headed the state Congress unit between 2011 and 2013, said his priority in the new stint would be to strengthen the party at the grassroots. “A roadmap will be made for revival of the Congress. The BJD and the BJP should not assume that the Congress is fighting a losing battle,” he told mediapersons in Delhi.

Patnaik replaces Prasad Harichandan, who had taken over from Dalit leader Jayadev Jena on December 15, 2014. After the Bijepur assembly bypoll loss in February in which the Congress candidate forfeited his security deposit, Harichandan had offered to resign.

The clamour for Harichandan to step down, however, had started in February last year after the party’s dismal show in the panchayat elections, where it ceded the second spot to the BJP.

In the last one year, the Congress has lost several key leaders. It has seen big desertions in the politically important Ganjam district, where chief minister Naveen Patnaik contests from Hinjili constituency. Strong Congress leaders from the district, former Union minister Chandrasekhar Sahoo, Bikram Panda and the party’s district unit chief recently joined the BJD.

The state Congress chief’s post has seen four occupants in the last nine years.

First Published: Apr 19, 2018 22:34 IST