The State Congress, realising that its traditional tribal vote bank is fast slipping out of its hands, is now trying to raise the issue of ‘rising atrocities’ on tribals in the State.
The issue will be discussed at the zonal meetings of the party on June 5, 6, 7 to 8 in Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Sambalpur and Jeypore respectively.
Zonal meetings in Cuttack and Berhampur had already been held in the first week of this month to activate the party rank and file keeping an eye on the urban local body (ULB) polls next year.
Sources said Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh’s recent letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik pointing out that there are too many innocent tribals languishing in jails of Odisha and demanding their immediate release has come in handy for the State Congress to mount an offensive against the BJD. The ‘rapidly-deteriorating’ law and order situation will also be one of the issues to be discussed at the meetings.
Senior leaders maintained that issues for? agitations to reach the masses would be identified after completion of all the zonal meetings.
A senior Congress leader told this paper that the State Government was anti-tribal,? an issue to launch a campaign in the coming days.
Sources, however, maintained that the base of the Congress has eroded in many tribal areas.
Steps would be initiated to address the situation first. The party base in predominantly-tribal districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar has shrunk during the last 12 years.
The first task before the leadership is to identify party workers at booth-level in these areas and strengthen the organisation from the grassroots level.
The State Congress will also cash in on the cracks in the ruling BJD which have come to the fore for the first time. Differences between Naveen and Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra have created confusion among the party workers.
Former Congress minister Narasingh Mishra told this paper that the zonal meetings would work towards bringing unity in the party.
The grassroots workers will be enlightened on the Central Government’s welfare schemes and ‘failures’ of the State Government, he said.