Congress leaders meet to revive party in Odisha

Unfazed by the recent militant attacks, a 58 percent voter turnout was recorded in the third phase of the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday that involved 16 seats--all in the Valley--as they continued to ignore boycott calls.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 09, 2014, 19:50 PM IST

Bhubaneswar: Admitting that the party's support base has eroded in Odisha, senior Congress leaders led by former Chief Minister Hemananda Biswal on Tuesday held a conclave seeking immediate revival of the party in the state.

"As many people feel that the Congress support base is gradually eroding, I convened a meeting of the party leaders to chalk out a strategy to revive the organisation," Biswal told reporters rejecting allegation of holding a parallel meeting on AICC president Sonia Gandhi's birth day.

Though Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Jaydev Jena and other party functionaries were invited to the meeting, none of them attended the conclave.

However, former PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik, former PCC working president Chandrasekhar Sahu, former Union minister KC Lenka, former MP Ananta Sethi, Mahila Congress president Bijaylaxmi Sahoo, former minister Sitakanta Mohapatra and others attended the meeting.

Two sitting Congress MLAs- Prafulla Majhi and party's chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati also attended the meeting.

The meeting at this juncture is considered significant as Congress veteran and former chief minister J B Patnaik is slated to return to the state on Thursday after completing his tenure as Governor of Assam. Though Patnaik is yet to reveal his future plans, party leaders feel that his return to state politics would help Congress revival here.

"J B Patnaik is a senior leader. His return will certainly help the Congress in the state," Biswal said. Above 80 per cent of the leaders who attended today's meeting were strong supporters of Patnaik, party sources said.

While OPCC president Jena was not available for comment, party spokesman Sarat Rout said, "It is good that some leaders united and thought about revival of Congress. But, it was seen that some leaders who worked against party's official candidates in last elections, attended the meeting."

The senior leaders who attended the meeting put forth their views and admitted that the Congress has weakened in the state over the years, opined that all should work in tandem to revive the party. "We all should go the party high command and say that the Congress leaders and workers want to work under a particular leader in Odisha," said K C Lenka.

Meanwhile, the meeting felt that Naveen Patnaik led BJD took advantage due to lack of unity among Congress leaders in the state. They demanded revival of the organisation in order to give a reply to the ruling BJD which faced serious charges like its leaders being arrested by the CBI in the chitfund scam.

: Unfazed by the recent militant attacks, a 58 percent voter turnout was recorded in the third phase of the Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday that involved 16 seats--all in the Valley--as they continued to ignore boycott calls.

The turnout in the five-phase elections was, however, less compared to the first two phases which recorded 72 per cent polling though it was nine per cent higher than that recorded in 2008 Assembly polls. A 49 per cent polling was recorded for the same segments in the previous polls.

With today's polling covering three districts, voting has been completed in 49 of the 87 Assembly constituencies. The fourth and fifth phase will be held on December 14 and 20. Counting of votes will be taken up on December 23.

Barring a petrol bomb attack by some unidentified persons at a polling station in Gulmarg, the polling was by and large peaceful in all the constituencies in Baramulla, Pulwama and Budgam districts of north, south and central Kashmir.

Voters including elderly persons lined up at 1,781 polling stations in sub-zero temperatures at many places in the morning to decide the fate of 144 candidates including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and three of his cabinet colleagues.

Giving the breakup of voting at the end of the polling, Chief Electoral officer Umang Narula said Charar-e-Sharief in Budgam district recorded the highest 82.74 per cent against 74.58 in 2008.

Sopore constituency--the home town of hardline Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani who spearheaded the boycott campaign--saw the lowest 30 per cent polling but it was higher compared to 19.95 per cent recorded in 2008.

Narula said 79 per cent polling was registered in Baramulla district's Uri segment which witnessed the deadly attack on an army camp Friday leaving 11 security force personnel and six militants dead.

In the last assembly polls, the constituency recorded 81.73 per cent voting.

Beerwah constituency in Budgam district from where Omar is locked in a multi-cornered contest, recorded an increase of nearly 17 per cent in the polling compared to last assembly elections. The constituency recorded 74.14 per cent as against 57.17 per cent in 2008.