Former union minister Srikant Jena on Sunday alleged a “mahagathbandhan” between Rahul Gandhi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, after Congress expelled him and former MLA Krushna Chandra Sagaria from the primary membership of the party a day earlier.
The Odisha Congress unit continued its crackdown late Saturday night on factionalism with the expulsion of Jena and Sagaria. Earlier this week, the party had suspended Sundergarh MLA Jogesh Singh.
Singh, who then resigned from the party, had prior to suspension called Naveen Patnaik an “extraordinary politician” and said he will skip Rahul Gandhi’s Odisha rally on January 25 citing “previous commitments in his constituency”.
In December, Jena had quit from two party posts after he was removed as chairperson of Odisha Congress manifesto committee. He had been making statements on mining interests of Niranjan Patnaik.
Sagaria, who on Friday had alleged that Niranjan Patnaik was trying to finish off Congress in Odisha, was also expelled. The Koraput MLA had previously resigned from his seat citing his inability to bring justice to the Kunduli rape victim, who had committed suicide after months of alleged gang rape by paramilitary members.
Jena targeted Rahul, Naveen, Niranjan and his brother Soumya Ranjan in a press conference Sunday. “Rahul Gandhi’s decision is that Odisha should continue to be ruled by the Patnaiks. There is a mahagathbandhan between Rahul Gandhi and Naveen Patnaik”, he alleged.
“There will be a mahasangram against the mahagathbandhhan in Odisha. I will work for it. I will rescue Odisha from the rule of the Patnaiks. Half per cent (population) will rule Odisha. Why? To destroy Odisha?” he questioned.
“I will campaign everywhere and I will expose their secrets. This is just the beginning. On January 25, I will give certain facts. The full country will know what Rahul Gandhi is and what he is protecting”, Jena warned.
Continuing his tirade against the national Congress President, Jena said, “Congress did not have the culture of supporting mining mafia earlier and betraying the poor people of Odisha. Rahul Gandhi is the first person in charge of Congress, who has come down to this level. I had never imagined the great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru will stoop to this level”.
Stating he was expelled because he “no longer had the merit to be a part of the Congress”, Jena challenged that no one in Baleswar (his previous Lok Sabha constituency) can say that he has not worked or has been involved in corruption. Sagaria on Sunday said the Congress party has been unfair to him as he was never involved in anti-party activities.
Reacting to Jena’s statements, Niranjan Patnaik said, “Congress Party only looks for disciplined members”.
The BJP promptly echoed Jena’s allegations. “To protect business interests, BJD and Congress have schemed to expel Srikant Jena. For 40 years, Jena has been making adverse remarks against Odisha’s two influential families… that are looting Odisha”, said party vice president Sameer Mohanty.
BJD Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Pratap Keshario Deb said Jena’s expulsion was Congress internal affairs. He said Jena’s allegations were inconsistent. “Why did he not resign from UPA, when he was union minister?” Deb also said that Jena’s statements signaled he will join the BJP.