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December 4, 1999
Giridhar Gamang decides to quit
Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneswar
Orissa Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang announced his resignation late tonight.
He said he would be submitting the resignation to the governor tomorrow morning.
The Congress Legislature Party is scheduled to meet at 1030 IST tomorrow to elect its new leader.
Though the observers sent by the party's central leadership were non-committal, Vayalar Ravi, when asked about former chief minister J B Patnaik's chances of returning to the saddle, said he was not in the race. And Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee president Hemananda Biswal said it would be up to the legislators to decide their leader.
The three observers, Ravi, Ramesh Chennithala and Motilal Vora, held talks with Congress legislators all day long. The parleys were continuing late into the night at the state guesthouse in the capital Bhubaneswar.
But sources say a compromise formula has been worked out according to which Biswal will be the new chief minister and J B Patnaik will return as the OPCC chief.
Patnaik held the post of OPCC chief along with the chief ministership until last year when he was forced to resign in the wake of the murder of missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons.
Most of the legislators whom the observers met expressed reservations about Gamang continuing in office. Biswal, who is also a tribal like Gamang and has been chief minister once before for four months, seemed to be acceptable to everyone if Patnaik gets to head the organisation.
In this arrangement, the Basant Kumar Biswal group, trying to get some benefit by first supporting Patnaik and then Gamang, appears to have got the worst deal. All its hopes of making it to power have been dashed. It will be clearer tomorrow morning how badly it has been affected.
Hemananda Biswal had earlier said he was not in the race for the chief minister's chair and had maintained that a change of leadership at this stage was undesirable.
In the afternoon, the observers read out a resolution signed by six senior politicians -- Patnaik, the two Biswals, Nandini Satpathy, K C Lenka and Gamang -- saying they have full faith in party chief Sonia Gandhi and would work unitedly for success in the ensuing assembly poll and ensuring the rehabilitation of the victims of the recent cyclone.
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