In 2008, the BJD-BJP alliance secured 62 urban local bodies in Odisha, leaving the Congress far behind at just 20. The BJD won 47, while the BJP won 15 local bodies. At that time, Jayadev Jena was the PCC President. The situation is completely different today, but Mr. Jena is back at the helm. Can he perform better this time, taking advantage of the split between BJD and BJP or the Congress will decline further, thanks to infighting and poor planning?
It is believed that Congress was going aggressive under the leadership of Niranjan Patnaik, who was unceremoniously removed from the PCC President to bring back Jayadev Jena. That has led to a silent revolt in the party, as Niranjan, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and Lulu Mohapatra are accused of running a parallel organisation within the Congress, defying the PCC leadership. It can be recalled that the Congress won all three new NACs – Attabira, Hindol and Nuapara a few months ago, giving a major jolt to the ruling BJD. And, that victory came under Niranjan’s leadership.
The BJD, which is fighting the internal disturbances within the party, has heaved a sigh of relief, as it does not have a strong opposition now. Even in the absence of erstwhile BJD Strategist Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the party is hopeful of bagging at least 80% of urban local bodies that would go to polls on September 19. On the other hand, the BJP may not regain what it achieved last time, as the party is losing its base thick and fast and many leaders and cadres are disgruntled with the “royal” leadership of KV Singhdeo. Since there will be no polls in Western Odisha where Congress is relatively stronger, it will be acid test for Jayadev.
Jayadev Jena has an uphill task in hand. If he fails to increase the Congress’ tally in 2013 urban local body polls, his critics would be gunning for his head and try to jeopardise his chances to lead the party in future. Although he enjoys the support of many strong leaders in Odisha and at the Centre, the elections in urban local bodies could re-define the fate of the Congress Party in the state and Jena will face new challenges to keep the flock together.