Two Orissa Cong leaders join BJD

Already plagued by infighting and desertions, the Orissa Congress faced another setback Saturday after its Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh and legislature party secretary Anup Sai joined the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), accusing their former party of being run by a coterie.

Singh, who had been denying rumours that he was quitting Congress, Saturday walked to Naveen Niwas with Sai to announce their decision. CM and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik exchanged sweets with the two, asserting that they will be “tremendous assets” to the party.

Singh, a four-time MLA from Kalahandi district, said he resigned from primary membership of the Congress after he was asked to resign from the CLP chief’s post. “Some people thought since the party had a Dalit as a PCC chief, a tribal as CLP leader would help the party in polls. There is too much Dalit supremacy in the party. A coterie is running the party,” he said.

Congress sources said Singh wanted to contest from Kalahandi Parliamentary seat, but he was rebuffed by PCC leaders who favour a renomination for sitting Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das.

BJD sources said Singh may be given party ticket to contest from Kalahandi, while Sai may get to contest from Bargarh.

The Congress hit back at Singh, saying the party had given him everything. The BJP said he was joining the party he criticised all along.