In what can be a major setback to the Congress party in Odisha, its senior party leader and MLA from Jharsuguda, Naba Kishore Das is all set to join state’s incumbent ruling party Biju Janta Dal. The decision of the MLA has come just before Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the state, according to reports.
Naba Das is MLA from Jharsuguda from 2009, defending its seat from BJD candidate and former Assembly speaker Kishore Kumar Mohanty twice. Das had also steered Congress to victory in last Zila Parishad elections in the constituency, whereas the party was routed on the rest of the seats. The defection of the MLA is seen as a major setback for the party, which is fighting for its existence in the state since the year 2000. Speculations regarding the MLA’s defection was high since he had praised BJD supremo and CM Naveen Patnaik’s development efforts in his constituency.
The Jharsuguda MLA declared his decision during a meeting at Samasingha gram panchayat of Kolabira block, where he said that joining BJD is not his own decision but the decision of the people in his constituency. He also added that he will be joining BJD on 24 January, when Naveen Patnaik is coming to his constituency to inaugurate development works. During CM’s visit to the industrially important district, a cancer hospital, a pathology centre and a clean water drinking project and also a railroad bridge, will be inaugurated.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief Niranjan Patnaik has slammed CM Naveen Patnaik, for luring his party leaders just ahead of elections.
“Congress doesn’t need to fear any exodus. We want only efficient people at our party. It will have no impact on the party. Political leaders, who leave a party just ahead of elections, lack principle and they are often seen changing parties for mere benefits,” Niranjan Patnaik was quoted.
Congress’ disciplinary committee chief Hemananda Biswal also reiterated that Das’ defection at such a crucial time is unfortunate. Biswal added that the party is bigger than an individual, and it will not leave a long-lasting void, as it will be fulfilled by some other leader. He also said that with party grabbing three states in the recent assembly elections, “good times are ahead” for Congress.
In December 2015, Naba Das was suspended from the assembly for 7 days on the allegations of watching porn clip on his phone. The speaker had referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee for investigation. The committee gave a clean chit to Das in December 2018, after it found no evidence of the allegation after reviewing CCTV and media footages,
In addition to Das, another MLA Prakash Behera representing Salepur from Congress is also speculated to join BJD ahead of elections. This is not the first time Congress is witnessing such an exodus of its leaders from party to the opposition camp.
In the run-up to 2014 general elections, two Odisha Congress leaders Anup Sai, legislative party secretary and Bhupinder Singh, Leader of Opposition, had defected and joined the BJD. Similarly, Nayagarh district president of Congress Kumar Hemendra Singh had also joined BJD and had accused that time vice-president of Congress Rahul Gandhi of turning a blind eye towards the party’s grassroots-level workers.
CM Naveen Patnaik has already delivered a blow to aspirations of Congress party of forming a Mahagatbandhan, and now its leaders defecting at such a crucial time is sure to take the party on backfoot. Earlier this month, CM Patnaik had made it clear that it will be maintaining an equidistant position from both Congress and BJP in the next general elections. CM Patnaik, is also expected to join the Telangana CM KC Rao led Federal Front, that is free of both the national parties.
Elections to the Odisha Assembly will take place concurrently with Lok Sabha elections this year.