Factional feud may topple Congress

Factional feud in the Sundargarh District Congress Committee (SDCC) is all likely to cost the party dear in the February panchayat polls.

Blame it on the Congress leadership’s failure to set the divided house in order even after OPCC president Niranjan Patnaik asked the party functionaries to bury the differences during his visit along with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in December last year.

The selection of candidates for the 35-member Zilla Parishad election is underway by the SDCC without consulting seasoned Congress politicians of the district. The nominations for the ZP seats would be filed from January 7 to 12.

Sources said the factional fight between the groups led by former chief minister Hemanand Biswal and former Speaker Kishore Chandra Patel is likely to cost the party dear in the panchayat polls. Biswal, originally a native of Laikera in Jharsuguda district was elected from Sundargarh constituency in the last Lok Sabha elections. All the district Congress leaders, including Patel, had joined hands to ensure Biswal’s victory in the polls. Biswal, however, distanced himself from Patel once the election was over and filled the SDCC with his loyalists so as to have a final say in the ticket issue.

Political observes view it as natural for Patel and his supporters to lay low.

Sources pointed out that the candidates’ selection for the ZP seats is underway by the SDCC single-handedly. A panel consisting of former MPs, MLAs and other prominent leaders is assigned with the job. Ever since the ZP council was revived in 1997, the Congress had majority in the councils in 1997 and 2002. The outgoing council of 2007 led by Serofina Toppo has 16 Congress members and is supported by JMM and CPM.

Patel has good rapport with the Congress workers in the rural pockets. His boycott of the electioneering may prove counter-productive for Congress to retain the ZP council. Political observers said it would be a daunting task for the OPCC chief to join the two power poles _ Biswal and KC Patel _ together.

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