Mumbai: March to honour Mahatma reveals rift in Congress units

Jan 09, 2015, 08:00 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Party’s state unit has organised a march to mark the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India; sources said that city leaders perceived this as an encroachment of their executive powers

Honouring Mahatma Gandhi might not be the only motive for Congress leaders in the city who step out today to commemorate the centenary of his return from South Africa.

The march will mark 100 years since the day Mahatma Gandhi returned to India after over 21 years in South Africa. File pic
The march will mark 100 years since the day Mahatma Gandhi returned to India after over 21 years in South Africa. File pic

The fear that the party’s high command the ‘other’ Gandhis might take disciplinary action against them if they skip the event could also work to drive them out of their homes early in the morning, as they take to the streets with a ceremonial march.

Sources in the Congress said a rift within the party threatened to make the show a non-starter, after state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre pitched the idea at a Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) meeting last week.

Some of the city’s senior leaders had threatened to disobey and extend non-cooperation, questioning the propriety of the state unit (Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee or the MPCC) organising the event even though MRCC’s executive committee controlled the city.

MRCC president Janardan Chandurkar told mid-day, “Some leaders said the party’s constitution has empowered MRCC to hold events in the city, and MPCC had no right to encroach on this. They also pointed out that the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) had not asked state units to hold any such event on January 9.”

He added that while he had a few issues with the state unit himself, he had refrained from airing them out so that the cracks within the party did not show up. According to Chandurkar, some leaders had also pointed out that the NDA government would be marking the occasion with Pravasi Divas celebrations, and the Congress march could be perceived as support for their initiative.

Continuing rebellion
To rein in the clash, the party high command asked the state in-charge, Mohan Prakash, to take command and ensure that the event is held properly. Prakash has been in the city for the past two days to oversee preparations and report any disobedience to the high command.

However, a senior MPCC leader said that despite Prakash’s intervention, the city leaders were not forthcoming in supporting the event. “Non-cooperation and disobedience continues from MRCC’s side. State unit staffers and workers are making all the preparations, like engaging hoarding contractors and seeking various permissions from authorities, even though MRCC has the proper setup in place for this purpose,” the MPCC leader said.

MPCC spokesperson Sachin Sawant, meanwhile, tried to play the matter down. “There may be some issues, but we are doing this event together. We expect many leaders from the state and Mumbai to take part in the historic event,” he said. The march is slated to begin at 9 am today, starting from the Gateway of India to the Gandhi garden near Mantr-alaya. Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh is also expected to attend the event.

Protest on JAn 20
MRCC president Janardan Chandurkar said he had to scrap a protest march that was scheduled for Thursday. The protest was to be taken to the BMC headquarters, to object to various alleged corrupt practices in the Sena-BJP-led civic body. “We will hold the protest on January 20, even though city workers had wanted it to happen today (Thursday) itself,” said Chandurkar.

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