Nirupam, Kamat lock horns over district appointments

Nirupam wants to use his freedom of choice in helping the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee extend its units across the city, while Kamat wants to have his say in appointments made at the district and block levels

After a brief lull, Mumbai’s top two Congress leaders Sanjay Nirupam (president) and ex-MP Gurudas Kamat have revived the tussle between them. This time they are in disagreement over the appointments in the two Lok Sabha constituencies — North-East and North-West — from where Kamat has contested polls over the past three decades.

Kamat is expected to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the North-West constituency yet again in 2019, and hence wants to have office-bearers of his choice
Kamat is expected to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the North-West constituency yet again in 2019, and hence wants to have office-bearers of his choice

Sources in the city Congress said that Kamat wants to have his say in appointments made at the district (a Lok Sabha constituency is treated as a district unit) and block levels (sub-branches of the district units). On the other hand Nirupam, being chief of the city Congress, wants to use his freedom of choice in helping the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) extend its units across the city.

Nirupam has some areas of influence in the North-West constituency, where many of his loyalists are vying for district level posts
Nirupam has some areas of influence in the North-West constituency, where many of his loyalists are vying for district level posts

For Kamat, these two segments are equally important because the North-East constituency is where he built his political career and won several Lok Sabha elections. His loyalists have been demanding positions in the constituency where the Congress suffered humiliating losses in last year’s Assembly polls.

They argue that Kamat can revive the party’s base there, with the support of the right office-bearers, when they are in place. A Kamat loyalist Velluswamy Naidu is ad-hoc president of the North-East constituency, but he will not continue as he has served multiple terms. A sizable section of the Congress in this unit has switched over to the BJP in the recent past.

Kamat had moved out to the North-West segment as the North-East was given to the NCP under the seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. The former union minister lost the North-West seat last year to Shiv Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar. Kamat is expected to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the North-West constituency yet again in 2019, and hence wants to have office-bearers of his choice.

Ex-MLAs Rajhans Singh and Ashok Jadhav are among Kamat’s choices. But Nirupam too has his influence areas in the North-West where many of his loyalists, including some Muslim candidates, are vying for district level posts. Sources said that Nirupam was willing to concede Kamat’s demand only in one of the two constituencies. “It’s the president’s official right to select people in consultation with senior leaders.

It may not be possible for Nirupam to meet all of Kamat’s demands because there are people other than Kamat’s supporters who also need to be encouraged to work for the party,” said a senior Congress leader, requesting anonymity. Two months ago, the MRCC team was increased to a 170-member mega unit.

The party had ensured that various factions in MRCC were accommodated, and all religions, communities (and their sub-castes), especially Maharashtrians, minorities like Christians and north Indians were given representation ahead of the 2017 civic polls.

The Kamat group, which is considered to be the most powerful group in the city Congress, has been at loggerheads with Nirupam over several issues. The two leaders had called a truce in August this year, but it is expected to end if they fail to decide issues in an amicable manner, said an MRCC senior, who does not belong to either the Kamat or Nirupam camp.

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