Bhubaneswar, April 4: The Congress, which has been out of power in Odisha since 2000, will deliver “surprising results” this time by improving its performance in the polls, senior Congress leader and union Minister Srikant Kumar Jena said.
“The feedback I am getting from the ground, I think the Congress prospect is really good. We will do much better this time. In my opinion there will be surprising results,” Jena told IANS in an interview.
Jena said there is strong discontentment against the Naveen Patnaik government.
“Everywhere people are dissatisfied. Even their party workers and leaders are not happy. That will help the Congress,” said Jena, the only minister from the state in the union government.
Polling for the state’s 21 Lok Sabha and 147 assembly seats will be held simultaneously April 10 and 17. The Congress won 27 assembly and six Lok Sabha seats in 2009.
Sixtyfour-year-old Jena was a three-time legislator till 1989 and three-time member of the Lok Sabha from the Janata Dal from 1989 to 1998 before joining the Congress party. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Balasore on the Congress ticket in 2009.
He is seeking election again from the same constituency.
Although there are 10 candidates in the fray, Jena is likely to face a tough challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Pratap Sarangi and the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) Rabindra Kumar Jena.
“I am optimistic. We will be able to improve. The Congress will do much better this time,” said the union minister of state for statistics and programme implementation and chemicals and fertilisers.
An opinion poll last month predicted that it may get only four seats in this election.
“I do not know exactly how many seats we will get because it all depends on party people and how they work in different constituencies, but I am sure we will do better than the last election,” he said.
On infighting in the Congress which surfaced in recent weeks and a large number of its leaders joined other parties, Jena said: “It was a propaganda by a section of media which they (those who left the party) control.”
Jena said the ruling party is also managing a section of the media but it cannot manage the mind of the people.
“The Congress is a vast party (and) if some people (go), it will not make any impact. Many people are joining the Congress also,” said Jena who is also the state’s campaign committee chief of the party.
So, why will people vote for the Congress?
He said: “People are angry because of the scams, deteriorating law and order situation, atrocities against women and much more.”
“The mining scam is the largest scam in the country… everybody knows all this happened during the last 10 years and mining mafia, transport contractors all these people benefited.”
“Similarly chit fund scam is another big scam. Lakhs of people have lost their hard-earned money. Farmers in the state are not getting their due. (Compared to) the kind of package other states are offering to farmers, Odisha has been providing almost nothing,” he said.
For the last 14 years the Congress is not in power in Odisha, yet it has done a lot of things for the state, said Jena, adding: “Can you imagine seven medical colleges have been set up by government of India in the state?”
“How many hospitals the state government has built during its tenure?” he asked.
“Although the Odisha government has received huge amount of funds from the centre, the BJD government has been blaming the centre,” he said.
Who will be your chief minister if your faction-ridden party comes to power in the state?
“Our high command will decide,” Jena said.
Jena who began his political career during his student life was also union minister of state, industry and urban development in 1979, union minister of state, small scale industry, agro and rural industries in 1990 and union cabinet minister of parliamentary affairs and tourism in 1996.
(Jatindra Dash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)