Former Biramitrapur MLA and fire brand tribal leader George Tirkey has been made the president of the Rourkela District Congress Committee (DCC) which proves he enjoys confidence of the Congress top brass. But for him challenges are tough to restructure the party and breathe new life into it in coming days, believe the political pundits here.
No doubt, Tirkey is a good organiser and has never looked back since he joined politics in 1995 quitting his bank service. He is not only known as a prominent tribal leader, but also a revolutionary and champion of tribal rights and entitlements.
He has a special image among the tribal people here but how much he will succeed in strengthening the party like Congress which is a divided house is a big question. It may be noted here that in 1995 he had started his political journey from the JMM and became the MLA of Biramitrapur consecutively for two times that is in 1995 and 2000.
Even in the first Zilla Parishad election in 1997, his party had got an overwhelming victory and formed the ZP with the support of Congress. And later on, his party candidates won in all 11 wards of the Biramitrapur Municipality.
But his political career got a twist after formation of the separate Jharkhand State in 2000 consisting 18 districts of Bihar where no area from Odisha was included and in course of time, due to his aggressive stand, he was arrested and put behind the bars for more than a month.
Finally, before 2004 elections, he left the JMM and joined the BJD but could not manage to get a party ticket. Being in BJD he fought the election as an Independent candidate from Biramitrapur Assembly Constituency and Sundargarh Parliament seat and lost both. Despite this, the party couldn’t take any disciplinary action against him.
But his relationship with the BJD turned sour when he openly criticised the State Government on the Kalinga Nagar issue on January 2, 2006 where 14 agitating tribals were gunned down by the police and subsequently, he joined with the tribal agitators who disrupted the railway services for 36 hours on Howrah-Mumbai line due to economic blockade.
Finally, he was suspended from the BJD and Tirkey formed his own George Sena.In 2009, he won as Biramitrapur seat again but as an Independent candidate. Besides expanding his activities to other parts of the State, Tirkey joined hands with activist Prafulla Samantra and former Union Minister Braja Kishore Tripathy and was involved in a campaign against anti-displacement.
He fought for protecting the interest of farmers and implementing the PESA in scheduled areas. In 2013, Tirkey and Tripathy formed the Samata Kranti Party and Tirkey became its State president. But in 2014 election, he was the lone candidate from the SKP who won the poll.
Besides, Tirkey was involved in several campaigns for the tribals under the banner of Sundargarh Mulabasi Adivasi Surakshya Manch. As of now, Tirkey is facing more than two dozens of cases lodged in different police stations and many of his aides were also arrested. Despite this he never feared to raise his voices for the cause of tribals vehemently. But suddenly he rejoined JMM with his hundreds of supporters in December, 2017 and in less than a year again quitted the JMM in September 2018 to join Congress. After joining Congress, he managed to get a ticket for himself for Sundargarh Parliament seat and also for his son Rohit Joseph Tirkey from Biramitrapur Assembly seat. Unfortunately, the duo lost the elections in both seats and stood third.
The Rourkela DCC comprises Rourkela and Raghunathpalli Assembly constituencies where not only is Congress is on back foot but also his political influence is poor. Besides, in past days his agitation under the banner of the Sundargarh Mulabasi Adivasi Surakshya Manch has coloured him as an anti-development activist.
Rourkela Congress unit is still reeling under internal dissents and groupism and Tirkey so far has not been able to carry all the mass organisations into confidence. In previous days it was noticed that rival groups of Congress were staging agitation separately in different manners on particular issues and this practice still prevails after declaration of the DCC chief. The bright example is the observation of late Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary on November 19.
So now the tough job for Tirkey is to form the full DCC body taking all groups into confidence, like trade union, students, youths, women and farmers’ wings. He has to also give a message that he is not anti-development.
The ULB election is due in 2021 and Panchayat election in 2022. So Tirkey has to take the bull by the horns by bringing discipline into the party unit and organising the party at the grassroots level.
Besides, at any moment the union recognition election of the Rourkela Steel Plant may be held which is also crucial for him.