From The Editor’s Desk: Former Lok Sabha MP, educationist and media baron, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik may return to the Odisha Congress very soon. Soumya, who was unceremoniously removed from the Congress at the behest of then PCC President Jayadev Jena and former Union Minister Srikant Jena, is seen as the lone hope of the Congress Party in Odisha, which has been on a decline in the recent months.
After the removal of Niranjan Patnaik as the PCC President and expulsion of Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, the Odisha Congress lost its face and image. The cadres and leaders drifted away from the party, giving an advantage to the ruling BJD and BJP. The BJP, which had nominal presence in Odisha, used this occasion to grow at the expense of the Congress Party, which was clearly visible during the Kandhamal bypoll.
The suicidal decision taken by the Jenas, proved too costly for the Congress. The party lost a strong media support, as Soumya Ranjan Patnaik is the only person in Odisha to have stronghold over all forms of media business – be it Newspaper, TV Channel, Web Portal or Radio. His media empire includes Odisha’s largest circulated daily Sambad, Kanak TV, Odisha Sun Times web portal and 98.3 FM Radio Mirchi. By expelling Soumya, Congress not only lost its support base, but also strengthened BJD and BJP further. Apart from media, Soumya Ranjan’s initiatives in developing the education system in the system and ‘Ama Odisha’ blood donation camps, have turned him into a mass leader.
The situation changed fast following the dissent and discomfort of the party leaders at various level. Jayadev Jena and Srikant Jena came under the scanner and eventually, the High Command realised the mistake and replaced Jayadev Jena with Prasad Harichandan as the PCC President. Former Odisha CM JB Patnaik, who is credited with building the Congress Party in Odisha over the years, had recently returned to Odisha following his retirement as Assam Governor. His return not only galvanized the Congress leaders, but also paved the way for Soumya’s return to the party fold.
Even his bitter critics admit today that the decision to sideline Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, was a historic blunder. Although Soumya did not get much success with his newly formed political outfit ‘Ama Odisha Party’, he did create a big buzz in the political circle and emerged as a strong alternative to BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik after creating a mass movement in support of duped investors of chit fund scam. If Soumya gets an honourable return to the Congress, the party will largely benefit from his mass appeal, knowledge, experience and power. At the same time, the Congress will be able to check BJP’s rise in the state and woo many disgruntled BJD leaders and cadres too.