Ahead of the Panchayat polls due early next year in Odisha, Congress on Sunday brought back into the party fold, former MLA Shivaji Majhi, who had been suspended for defying a whip during Rajya Sabha elections six years ago.
Apart from Mahji, the ex-MLA of Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, former MP Nakul Nayak also joined the party in the presence of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief, Prasad Harichandan in Bhubaneswar.
Welcoming the two leaders, Harichandan said the return of Majhi would bolster the party in the backward Kalahandi district while Nayak’s entry would strengthen the party in the tribal-dominated Kandhamal. Nayak had been MP from Phulbani in 1989 on a Janata Dal ticket.
The entry of the two leaders into the Congress fold is significant for the party at this stage as the BJD Government in the state is following an “anti-tribal and anti-Dalit” policy, the PCC chief said.
The two leaders joined the party following a decision of AICC on the basis of the recommendation made by Kalahandi and Kandhamal Congress Committees, he said. Majhi had abstained from voting during Rajya Sabha polls in 2010 defying party whip, party sources said adding he was suspended in June, 2011 after release of an audio tape, which claimed that two ministers had struck a deal with Majhi to keep away from voting in the election. Suspension of Majhi was revoked in 2014, but he had later joined BJP.
“I was disappointed in 2014 after being denied Congress ticket for the Assembly elections and I joined BJP. However,decided to return to Congress when I saw the attitude of BJP towards Dalits and tribals,” said Majhi. Hitting out at the BJD Government, ex-MP Nayak said Kandhamal has suffered a lot during its rule for the last 17 years as nearly 80,000 people were left homeless and more than a lakh left the district due to riots.
Both BJD and BJP have failed miserably in restoring normalcy in Kandhamal, claimed Nayak, who turned rebel after being denied a BJD ticket in the 2009 polls.