Find a replacement for me, Milind Deora finally tells Congress
Crisis in Mumbai Congress to be discussed at party's high command's meeting with senior leaders on Thursday in New Delhi
A day after ranting against the infighting in the Mumbai Congress, former MP and union minister, Milind Deora, has told the city unit president Sanjay Nirupam that though his name has been sent for the Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency, the party should find another candidate to replace him.
The development is all set to be taken up at a meeting between the party's national president Rahul Gandhi, general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, Mallikarjun Kharge, state president, Ashok Chavan, and Nirupam, in New Delhi. The meeting is scheduled to be held tomorrow or the day after as all the party's general secretaries, state presidents, relevant national office-bearers and Gandhi are slated to arrive from Thursday onwards.
Deora's Twitter rant on Tuesday rocked political circles despite the fact that the infighting in the Congress was no secret. The cold war between the leaders has come to the fore ahead of Lok Sabha polls. However, Deora's intention of not contesting the election from Mumbai South, which he represented twice in the UPA government, but lost in 2014, came as a surprise. Nirupam confirmed the development. "I'm all for an amicable solution and am looking forward to getting the issue sorted out in a day or two," he told mid-day. Deora said, "I have communicated my concerns to the party and don't wish to discuss this in public or through the media."
According to people close to the development, Deora texted Nirupam a birthday wish (on Wednesday) and informed him of his decision to not contest the forthcoming polls because of various reasons. He asked the president to find a replacement. Deora's is the only name that has been recommended for the Mumbai South segment. Former MP Priya Dutt is another leader who has refused to contest from North Central. She, too, is being asked to reconsider.
What Deora said
Deora said on Tuesday that many leaders had felt left out and were sitting at home because of infighting. He said the city Congress had become "a cricket pitch for sectarian politics", with leaders pitted against each other.
He said the Congress was leading a powerful, united campaign across India. "Infighting cannot, and should not, be allowed to threaten our base in Mumbai. I appeal to all Congress leaders in Mumbai to unite as a team. We owe this much to our party and to Congress president Rahul Gandhi," he had tweeted. Sources in the Congress said the target Deora wanted to hit at Nirupam, whose ouster was demanded by some leaders recently, in vain.
Nirupam vs All
The differences had come to the fore at the Maharashtra-Mumbai parliamentary board meeting which had recommended Lok Sabha poll candidates. Deora and many other senior leaders suggested that Nirupam should be asked to retain the Mumbai North constituency instead of shifting his candidature to the neighbouring North-West. Deora has been a frontrunner for the president's position. Supporters of the late Gurudas Kamat, senior leaders Kripashankar Singh, Naseem Khan, Amin Patel, Bhai Jagtap and many others are lobbying for a change of guard.
But, the anti-Nirupam campaign has not succeeded yet because the city's Congress chief and his supporters have been pitching for his continuation as a reward for keeping the Congress working on the streets and projecting the party as a principal opposition to BJP, whereas other senior leaders did not do much. "Nirupam is seen everywhere charging against the BJP. He took up the leadership when the party was in tatters and the seniors who are claiming their share did not come forward to strengthen the party," said a trusted aide of Nirupam.
Options for high command
According to some Congress leaders, if Nirupam is not replaced then the city Congress may have some working presidents so that the warring groups are accommodated in the hierarchy. "Changing leadership just two months before the elections isn't a good idea. The high command knows how to end this infighting," a leader said.
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