The AICC vice-president has come and gone and the Mumbai unit of the Congress remains as it was: headless. Eight exhaustive, back-to-back meetings later, All India Congress Committee vice-president Rahul Gandhi did not even touch upon the subject at his day-long visit to the city, meant to sound out issues of party workers and mobilise them ahead of the general election.
Six of these gatherings were with different district Congress units, another with BMC corporators, which was rounded by a joint meeting of everyone. The upshot of his sessions with city Congressmen will be known only after the announcement of a new president for the party’s Mumbai unit, but nobody knows when that is likely to take place. So went the mood at Tilak Bhavan, the command centre for the state Congress where Rahul spent his day.
His considered silence did no good to soothe the temperament of senior party functionaries, railing that they were not heard out in private. “A new chief for the party’s city unit cannot be appointed in this manner. If Rahul wanted to hear out what we feel, he should not have asked district unit workers to come with Lok Sabha members as many of them have personal issues and differences of opinion,” said a senior leader.
Gandhi raised the point of party men’s accountability in naming candidates for polls, saying, “Henceforth, whoever wants party tickets for their supporters will have to be accountable for losses as well. If 60 per cent of the candidates handpicked by the leader lose, he will not get the ticket he wants to contest elections.”
Before Gandhi’s address, Vasant Nanaware, a Congressman from Central Mumbai, created a flutter with his disparaging words against AICC in-charge of state affairs Mohan Prakash. “The party has appointed a person (Prakash) who was highly critical and used to lash out at late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi during the days of the movement launched by Jaiprakash Narayan. He did not spare even Rajiv Gandhi and continued the diatribe,” Nanaware said.
“Congressmen from the state will not tolerate this as he is also working against Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.” Nanaware’s straight talk found support among many of those present at Tilak Bhavan auditorium, claimed a party leader. But an office bearer of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee sought to play the issue down. “Vasant Nanaware should not be taken seriously as he has quit the party several times,” he said.
Mumbai North-West MP Gurudas Kamat was conspicuously absent from the interaction, leading to speculations that he is upset. But his Lok Sabha colleagues Milind Deora, Eknath Gaikwad, Priya Dutt and Sanjay Nirupam were present.