Congress leader Gurudas Kamat: I quit, why can't others

Apr 28, 2017, 08:28 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Congress leader Gurudas Kamat says he foresaw the party's debacle in the BMC election and kept his word on quitting in view of defeat

A day after the Congress reshuffled its team in Gujarat, and Gurudas Kamat, the outgoing general secretary in-charge of the BJP-led state said he had asked the party to relieve him of all positions much before he was replaced, the outspoken Mumbai leader says he kept his word on quitting in view of the party's defeat in the city and expects other leaders to follow suit.

In a freewheeling interview with mid-day, Kamat says he wants a much-needed break from politics and he would take a call on contesting Lok Sabha elections in 2019 whenever the situation demands. He refuses to lie low, and says he'll keep up his fight for distressed people.

Excerpts from an interview:

You don't want any political position, but you are still a Congress member. Does this mean that you will continue to play a part in politics?
Not actually. I'm not interested in active politics. But, I have decided to be a 'permanent citizen' of Mumbai and Maharashtra, and take up issues in my individual capacity. I have been away doing party work in other states. You must have noticed that I have been raising my voice on issues that need my intervention. My cadre and people regularly seek my help. I have decided to be active in this capacity because my people want me to do that. I don't need to be a political leader to do this job because I have earned strong goodwill over the years. Governments, bureaucrats and civic representatives respect my opinion and cooperate with me whenever I ask them for assistance in good cause.

Also read: Gurudas Kamat finally done with Congress?

But then, why did you quit coveted party positions? You still continue to be in-charge general secretary of Rajasthan, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu.
I quit simply because I wasn't enjoying the work I was doing. I have told my bosses and that and asked them to relieve me at the earliest. I met Mr Rahul Gandhi on several occasions to seek his nod and also wrote to Mrs Sonia Gandhi. My decision has nothing to do with new appointments in Gujarat because I had put in my paper much before the reshuffle happened on Wednesday. It is not that I did a bad job of my assignments. The Gujarat Congress has highly appreciated my work and it has passed a resolution to this effect.

Now, I want my party to accept my resignation as in-charge of Rajasthan and other places as well. I don't want my resignation to be accepted in bits and pieces. Else, the media will continue to say that I have resigned yet again.

Let me also clarify that I did not quit because some leaders, reportedly from my rival camps in Maharashtra, were appointed to work for the party in Gujarat. Young leaders like Rajiv Satav, Varsha Gaikwad and Harshvardhan Sapkal are not my competitors or opponents in politics. I have had many achievements in my career. It's time a new leadership like this took the party forward.

Your resignation has more to do with Mumbai affairs, right?
Actually, I sent my resignation when the party high command asked all senior Mumbai leaders to sign an undertaking which said we would be responsible for defeat, if any, and quit immediately owning it. I didn't wait for results because I knew my assessment (a big rout), which I had given to the party a year in advance. I reiterated my resolve to get divested of all responsibilities on at least three occasions.

Also read: Congress appoints Ashok Gehlot as Gujarat in-charge, replaces Gurudas Kamat

As far as Mumbai's civic election results are concerned, I knew that we were in for a debacle, primarily because of Sanjay Nirupam's working style. I did my part of campaigning vigorously. It is on record and the party also knows it. But what I don't understand is why other leaders haven't quit as yet despite signing the undertaking. Nirupam is a caretaker president of Mumbai (he quit after the results) now. But, I still feel that Nirupam could have done better as president had he taken people like me along. I was always ready to cooperate because I felt for my party. I must say that Nirupam is full of energy, but he wasted that valuable strength in doing meaningless things.

If not active politics, then what do you propose to do in future? Can we see you still leading from the front and contesting the next Lok Sabha polls?
As I told you, I'm not interested in pursuing politics as of now. I sit in my DN Nagar office regularly where people from my Lok Sabha constituencies visit me. The Lok Sabha elections are two years from now and any decision on it will depend on the situation then. Till then, I will help out distressed people.

You have been leading a strong cadre in Mumbai. Your posturing seems to have demoralised them. Do you have any plan for the trusted supporters?
I had a meeting with my core team a month ago. We discussed challenges we faced in our long journey together, and the destination we reached. I told them that I have stood by them through thick and thin, and now, they are well placed. I said they are mature leaders and, henceforth, they should carry the work forward
on their own. It's time for me to take a back seat.

Some say you may make BJP your new home.
It's rubbish. I have always followed a rule in my political career. I whole-heartedly appreciate good things and fearlessly attack bad things. I recently appreciated the Fadnavis government for asking government agencies to take up SRA and redevelopment projects. I would even tell Congress governments to get agencies to work and not private builders who make huge profits. I think that the government agencies should be able to raise funds and ease the state's debt if they are given such jobs.

This does not mean that I'm on my way to the BJP. The section of media that reported this has misled readers.

Your family, especially your doctor son, should be happy to have you on their side.
Yes, very much. Sunil, who won seven gold medals in his MBBS course in Mumbai University, is back to India as critical care expert (intensivist). He comes from New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Care Center and will start a telemedicine venture in Mumbai next month. He has tied up with 35 hospitals in the US. He is not interested in politics and so am I. I think we should have a great time.

DISCLAIMER: mid-day and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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