With an aim to garner votes of the youth, former Congress minister and former chief whip of the party, 50-year-old Prasad Harichandan was Monday named as new chief of the Orissa Congress.
The Congress has been searching for a new face to replace OPCC president Jaydev Jena, a Dalit, who led the party to its worst-ever performance in state’s electoral history winning 16 of the 147 seats or just 25.7 per cent of the votes polled in this year’s Assembly polls.
Even in 1990, when the Congress had recorded its worst-ever performance in the Assembly election and won 10 seats, it had secured 29.78 per cent of the votes. For last several weeks, speculation was rife over change of guard in PCC after 13 party leaders, including seven MLAs, met the party’s central leadership, including vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The party leadership toyed with the names of Harichandan and former MP of Nabrangpur Pradip Majhi.
Harichandan came to be noticed when he fought unsuccessfully against former chief minister Biju Patnaik from the Bhubaneswar Assembly constituency in 1990. He was quick to bounce back in 1995 when he won from Satyabadi Assembly constituency in Puri on a Congress ticket. In 1999, he became minister for the first time when the then chief minister Giridhar Gomang made him minister of state for home. Though he has been MLA four times, he lost this year’s Assembly polls.
After being named PCC chief, Harichandan said he would take all sections within the Congress along and rebuild the party from the grassroots. “I am an ordinary worker of the party and would seek the blessings of all senior leaders and cooperation of frontal organisations to revive the party in the state,” he said.