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Rahul Gandhi picks Marathi-Dalit leader Chandurkar as city Congress chief

At long last Mumbai Congress has a chief to keep the party together and ensure the party is poll-ready in light of the uncertain times ahead. 68-year-old Dalit leader and former legislator Janardhan Chandurkar will occupy the coveted chair, which was vacant since February last year. Party sources say Chandurkar was delegated by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi after a series of meetings.

Krupashankar Singh and Janardhan Chandurkar
Congress leaders Krupashankar Singh and Janardhan Chandurkar walk past a bunch of photographers outside Vidhan Bhavan in Nariman Point. File pic

An advocate by profession, Chandurkar was MLA from Bandra before he lost to Bala Sawant of Shiv Sena in 2009. What tilted the balance in his favour was that he is recognised as a person who prefers to keep away from all the prominent factions in the party’s city unit. He won a protracted battle for the post with MP Eknath Gaikwad, Chandrakant Handore, Madhu Chavan and Bhai Jagtap.

During the selection process, Rahul Gandhi had interacted with ministers Suresh Shetty, Naseem Khan and Prof Varsha Gaikwad; the latter’s name did figure in the list of probables. Chandurkar was close to ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh who, despite stiff opposition from Mumbai North Central MP Priya Dutt’s camp, nominated him for the Bandra (East) assembly seat.

Party sources said a group led by Mumbai North West MP Gurudas Kamat had recommended names of Chandrakant Handore, Rajhans Singh and Advocate Nirmala Samant Prabhawalkar. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was believed to be keen that either Madhu Chavan or Bhai Jagtap gets the job. A group considered loyal to veteran Murli Deora was pushing Madhu Chavan’s name, but he lost out in the final lap, said a senior party leader.

Sources say the party wanted a Marathi face to gear up for the impending political battle with Raj Thackeray-led MNS during the coming general elections. Also, the Dalit community is considered a traditional vote bank of the party. Going by the current indications MNS may pose a bigger challenge to Congress than Shiv Sena and faction-riddled BJP. AICC in-charge for Maharashtra Mohan Prakash too is said to have favoured Chandurkar.

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