Former Odisha CM Giridhar Gamang resigns from Congress

Giridhar Gamang addresses a press conference in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. Photo: Lingaraj Panda  

In a major political development, former Odisha Chief Minister and nine-time Lok Sabha member Giridhar Gamang resigned from Congress on Saturday. This move comes amidst speculations that he would join Bharatiya Janata Party.

Addressing a packed press conference, the veteran Congress leader blamed both Central and State Congress leadership for not defending him for his single vote against the confidence motion that caused the fall of the Vajpayee government in 1999.

“Since 1999, I have been humiliated in public for bringing down the Vajpayee government with a single vote of mine. Till today, neither my party nor my leaders have come out with the truth and protected me from public criticism. I feel that loyalty to the party has turned into a liability to the party,” mentioned Mr. Gamang in a letter addressed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi that was circulated among media persons.

The senior leader was the Chief Minister of Odisha then but had not resigned from the Lok Sabha seat of Koraput constituency. He was widely criticised for casting his vote against the confidence motion moved by then Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee, which was defeated by 269 to 270 votes.

Clarifying the circumstances under which he was forced to vote in the Lok Sabha while holding the post of Chief Ministership, Mr. Gamang said, “I was asked by the Chief Whip of the Congress Party in Parliament to attend the house for participation in voting under anti-defection law which says without permission of party, a member should not abstain from attending the house.”

“I was a member of the Lok Sabha from Koraput Parliamentary constituency though I was the Chief Minister of Odisha and was not a member of Odisha Legislative Assembly, therefore party had every right under the law to direct me to attend and vote for the party. I attended and voted not as Chief Minister of State but as per constitutional right of a MP to vote,” he said in the three-page-long letter.

Mr. Gamang said, “I am resigning from Congress not (sic) rejoining the same party. If any party comes up with a proposal to take me in, I will consider joining that party.”

His son, Sisir Gamang, who is also a Congress leader, however, hinted that he and his father were likely to join BJP in a grand ceremony. Mr. Sisir Gamang, who unsuccessfully contested the 2009 Assembly election on a Congress ticket from Gunupur, has also resigned from the Congress on Saturday.

The Senior Gamang also said that his views had been consistently ignored by the Congress leadership in major decision making processes during past couple of years. The 72-year- old leader was first elected to the fifth Lok Sabha in 1972. Since then Mr. Gamang had been re-elected to the lower house of Parliament continuously till 1998 from the Koraput Lok Sabha seat.

In 1999, when he became Chief Minister of Odisha, his wife, Hema Gamang, replaced him from Koraput in the 13 Lok Sabha. However, he returned to his traditional seat and won the election in 2004. The veteran Congress leader has, however, failed to retain his seat in the past two successive general elections – 2009 and 2014.

Mr. Gamang, one of the tallest leaders in south Odisha, has held different ministerial berths in Union governments under the prime ministership of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P. V. Narasimha Rao since 1982. Besides, he was also chosen as member of numerous parliamentary committees during his long stint as an MP. But his chief ministership had lost its sheen as he was accused of mismanaging the 1999 Super Cyclone that caused unspeakable destruction in coastal Odisha.

Apart from his long innings in political life, Mr. Gamang was known as an exponent of different tribal folk instruments. As patron of Hidden Talent Cultural Troupe, the veteran tribal leader was instrumental in evolving a new style of playing Dhamp (a tribal instrument). Despite occupying important positions like Chief Minister and Union Minister, he has never shied away from performing tribal folk music in public forum. Interestingly, Mr. Gamang had visited Australia and USA purely on basis of his involvement in music.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 9:46:23 PM |

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