Special Correspondent

MLA resigns as rebel in ZP polls is expelled

BHUBANESWAR: Infighting in the Orissa unit of the Congress has come to the fore in the aftermath of the recently held three-tier panchayat polls, with the resignation of Soro legislator Kartik Mohapatra from the party.

Mr. Mohapatra resigned in protest against the expulsion of Girish Das from the party following his election as chairman of the Zilla Parishad in Balasore district as a rebel. The legislator blamed the party leadership for mishandling the situation in the district.

A section of the leaders also started questioning the leadership of Pradesh Congress president Jayadev Jena for the failure of the party to achieve considerable success in the polls.

According to party sources, several senior leaders were planning to go to New Delhi soon after the short Assembly session ends on March 31 to approach the high command seeking change in the leadership.

The arguments given by Mr. Jena's detractors were that the party failed to improve its tally in the rural polls. While the party had won 284 Zilla Parishad seats in the last panchayat polls held in 2002, the number increased to 303 in the recent elections. The party won 284 seats while having only 25 MLAs, but it got only 303 despite having 38 MLAs in the present Assembly.

Frustration

The improved performance of the ruling Biju Janata Dal also added to the frustration of senior Congress leaders in the State. The BJD bagged 341 Zilla Parishad seats as against 291 seats in 2002.

The dissatisfaction in the Congress ranks was also showing due to the party's inability to form Zilla Parishads in different districts by winning a majority on its own. While the party had secured majority of seats in 10 districts in 2002, it was able to have majority only in nine districts in the recent elections.

The party, however, was able to have its leaders win the Zilla Parishad chairman post in 10 districts by joining hand with other parties.

Those unhappy over the party's performance were of the view that the party failed on two major counts - it failed to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor and was also unable to take advantage of the situation in a majority of districts where the BJD and its alliance partner in the government, the Bharatiya Janata Party, fought the panchayat polls separately.