Suresh Shetty, Bhai Jagtap, Dr Amarjit Singh Manhas in race to head city Congress
All three have been in the Congress since their university days and have proved themselves at various levels.
The rank and file of Mumbai Congress are eagerly expecting the high command to restructure the metro's organisational unit, that will have to face the civic polls in another 13-14 months in the changed political scenario in the state and the city.
The party made several changes to its national set-up after the 'letter storm' rocked it last month. A senior leader from Karnataka, H K Patil, has been made general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra. Patil replaced Mallikarjun Kharge, who held specific views about certain leaders in the contention for the top post of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC).
According to informed people, the long-time party loyalists, former minister Suresh Shetty, senior trade union leader and MLC Bhai Jagtap, and another senior leader, Dr Amarjit Singh Manhas, are in contention for the office. All three have been in the Congress since their university days and have proved themselves at various levels.
The local leaders expect the new in-charge to fathom their sentiments about the organisational requirements of Mumbai, where the Congress in th BMC stands a poor third after the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Separated from the BJP, the Sena now leads the state government in association with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The question before the Congressman is whether the three MVA partners will join hands for the BMC elections, even as the Sena and NCP have been giving a strong indication of the two going together in the civic polls.
A senior Congress leader said the incumbent chief, Eknath Gaikwad, is an interim arrangement made after the full-time president Milind Deora quit last year.
"Gaikwad, who is 80 years old, has been there for a year. We expected a reshuffle after Gaikwad's daughter was made a minister in the MVA government, but it didn't take place. And then the pandemic hit us, crippling all activities. However, when changes were made at the national level, we hoped Mumbai Congress too will get a new president soon, most probably after Soniaji's (Gandhi) return from abroad," the leader said.
Of the strong contenders, Suresh Shetty is an ex-cabinet minister, who rose up the ranks from being a student leader. He did not contest the last Assembly polls from his pet segment in Andheri, but has been active in organisation. Dr Manhas also started out as a student leader in the Mumbai University and remained a thorough organisational worker who assisted the former Mumbai unit president and ex-union minister late Gurudas Kamat for many decades. Member of the upper house, Bhai Jagtap has emerged from trade unionism and won an Assembly election and two council polls.
A leader said unlike larger units like the state committees, the considerations for the Mumbai chief's post are different. Barring a few exceptions, the Mumbai Congress was given a cosmopolitan face to lead. "We can't say for sure there are only three people remaining in the race. A few more aspirants will make the contention harder in the days to come," the leader added.
None of the strong contenders seemed averse to accepting the new responsibility. Shetty said he hasn't been lobbying for the post. "I haven't spoken to anyone in the party," he said. Jagtap said he has wholeheartedly accepted the roles his party has given him. "I have put in 100 per cent in my party work," he said. Manhas said he was a loyal member of the party. "Party workers like me are bound to discharge duties and responsibilities as instructed by the high command," he said.
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