Bhubaneswar: Struggling to put its act together in the wake of the resignation of two sitting MLAs, who have already joined the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Congress has indicated that it could have tie-ups with like-minded parties like the two main communist parties and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
None of these three parties is much of a political force in the state now. While the CPI (M) has just one MLA in the state assembly, CPI and JMM are without representation. The support base of the communists and the JMM has shrunk alarmingly over the last one decade or so.
There was a time when CPI used to be a big force in parts of Ganjam and Jagatsinghpur. The CPI (M) too, had its pockets of influence in the state. They used to have some bargaining handle with whichever party they decided to align with. The same could also be said of JMM.
But times have changed. While the communists in the last one decade have not thrown up a single leader of note, the JMM had to bear the ignominy of seeing two of its most promising leaders switching loyalties out of sheer frustration. George Tirkey, who started out as a firebrand tribal leader winning the Birmitrapur seat on a JMM ticket, was first lured by the BJD. However, failing to get a party ticket, he fought and won as an independent. Currently, he is with the Congress.
Similarly, Sudam Marandi, once the leading light of the JMM in the state, is now with the BJD, having already served as a minister in the Naveen Patnaik government. With Marandi and Tirkey out, the tribal outfit is hardly a political force in the state.
Yet the Congress could make an understanding with these parties and add to their political weight in the process. Though state Congress leaders will never admit this, such moves reflect the growing desperation of a party, which despite having been out of power in the state for the last 19 years, is yet to find its bearings.
Ever since the departure of veteran JB Patnaik from the scene, the party seems to have lost its way. In the last two decades, it has failed to produce a single leader with the charisma and following of Patnaik who, notwithstanding his battles with rivals and the controversies he courted in the process, was able to carry the entire party with him. His protégé, the ill-fated Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra aka Lulu had showed some promise but untimely, death cut short his career. Ironically, his brother and daughter are now with the BJP, the party he fought throughout his career.
In the last few years, the Congress has also lost some other important leaders to the BJP, which has, for all practical purposes, replaced it as the main opposition party in the state. For example, former chief minister, Giridhar Gamang parted ways with the Grand Old party after a long and glittering innings out of sheer frustration and joined the saffron camp. With former chief minister, Hemanand Biswal, presently the oldest tribal leader in the Congress, no more the force that he once used to be, the party is bound to feel the absence of Gamang.
But given the kind of turmoil that Congress in Odisha finds itself in, it stands in danger of losing more leaders to other parties. Unless the party takes immediate remedial measures, it will find the crisis looming over it deepening.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are that of the author.