Calm after the storm in Mumbai Congress?

Former and incumbent city unit chiefs Gurudas Kamat and Sanjay Nirupam met in New Delhi yesterday to iron out their differences following public displays of factionalism; sources said party seniors wanted duo to patch up to ensure the city unit can put up a united front

The factionalism-riddled city Congress unit may expect some calm after a series of skirmishes between its president Sanjay Nirupam and ex-president Gurudas Kamat, with the two leaders meeting in New Delhi yesterday to iron out their differences.

Both leaders confirmed the meeting. Kamat had met Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Monday, after which a meeting between him and Nirupam took place. Seniors in the party wanted the Mumbai leaders to patch up so that the party can fight the city civic polls as a cohesive unit in early 2017.

“All issues (between us) are resolved,” Kamat told mid-day from New Delhi. Nirupam confirmed the meeting but said he did not want to reveal what was discussed. Sources said Kamat wants Nirupam, who was appointed the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president in March, to change his working style and adopt a democratic approach towards running the unit.

Kamat loyalists have been complaining about Nirupam’s political career in the Shiv Sena, during which he had made caustic comments against the Gandhi family, before joining the Congress 10 years ago.

Nirupam’s detractors want him to rearrange the city Congress committee in which the key positions are held by his supporters, who come from his Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituency, while leaders associated with Kamat, including former MPs Priya Dutt and Milind Deora, have been sidelined.

They also claim that Maharashtrians have not been given key posts in the city unit of the party, which will cost it votes during the civic polls. Kamat is also unhappy that his right-hand man, Amarjit Singh Manhas, and close associate, ex-MLA Rajhans Singh, have been relieved of coordinating party activities in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Power play
In view of strong resentment in his faction, Kamat had been waiting for an opportunity to cut Nirupam to size. Last month, he had slammed Nirupam for allegedly threatening Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta over the eviction of hawkers. Kamat had issued a statement saying that violence wasn’t part of the Congress tradition.

After that, Kamat had encouraged the party’s frontal organisations to stage a massive morcha in front of city BJP president Ashish Shelar’s Bandra home barely a day after Nirupam had led a silent march to Hutatma Square to protest the suspension of 25 Congress MPs.

The tussle continued even on the birth anniversary of former PM Rajiv Gandhi last week, when the Kamat faction did not participate in the Sadbhavana Rally organised by Nirupam. On that day, Kamat and his loyalists paid tributes to Gandhi much before Nirupam could reach the venue and left without waiting for the city party chief.

Sources said that Kamat will not relent till his demands are met by Nirupam. “We welcome the meeting, but our president Nirupam should take corrective measures as suggested by Kamat because all of us want the Congress to perform well in the civic polls,” said a senior Congress leader.

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