Lok Sabha Election

Milind Deora new Mumbai Congress chief

Taking charge: Supporters of Milind Deora present him with a turban after he was declared the new Mumbai Congress president on Monday.

Taking charge: Supporters of Milind Deora present him with a turban after he was declared the new Mumbai Congress president on Monday.


Monday turned out to be a bittersweet day for Sanjay Nirupam as he was replaced by Milind Deora as the Mumbai Congress president shortly after being declared as the party’s candidate from the Mumbai North-West Lok Sabha constituency.

Mr. Deora, the party’s candidate from Mumbai South, recently had raised concerns about the direction in which the party’s city unit was heading under Mr. Nirupam. Party leaders from the city had also held a meeting with the leadership in Delhi to voice their complaints against Mr. Nirupam and his style of functioning. In a statement, Mr. Deora said, “This appointment comes at a challenging time and I commit myself to strengthen the roots of the party in Mumbai. I appeal to all leaders and workers to work unitedly defending and furthering party ideals. The city of Mumbai needs politics of inclusive development.”

Mr. Deora’s father late Murli Deora had also headed the party’s Mumbai unit and ran it with an iron grip. Mr. Deora said that during his tenure, the focus would be on holistic development, housing for all, protection of small and medium enterprises, and enriching social and communal harmony. “I also take this opportunity to thank my predecessor Sanjay Nirupam. I wish him great success in his personal and political life,” he said.

Mr. Nirupam had expressed unwillingness to contest from the Mumbai North seat, which he had won in 2009, but lost by over four lakh votes to BJP’s Gopal Shetty in 2014. He had demanded that he be given the Mumbai North-West seat, which was lying vacant following the death of senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat. The ticket has come at the cost of the top post in the party’s city unit.

Mr. Nirupam thanked the party on hearing the news of his candidature. He said, “I worked as the Mumbai Congress president for four years and did my best. I extend my congratulations to the newly appointed Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora.” Mr. Nirupam added that he would win the seat and not let down party president Rahul Gandhi.

History of altercations

The Mumbai unit of the Congress has been witnessing a number of altercations over the past two years. The demand to remove Mr. Nirupam was first raised after the announcement of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation poll results, which saw the Congress being relegated to the third spot.

Meetings of the party’s city unit witnessed physical altercations between different factions on more than two occasions. The vocal anti-Nirupam faction had alleged that he was promoting only a particular community within the party organisation, leading others to stop working for the party. Mr. Nirupam was one of the strongest opponents of the plan to join hands with the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, fearing a backlash from north Indians.

‘Unit must remain symbol of city’s diversity’

“It wasn’t that Murli Deora or Gurudas Kamat were tall leaders of their communities. But they had strong leaders from each and every community with them, be it Marathis or Muslims or Dalits or north Indians or any others. There were political differences but they did not antagonise anyone.” This is what Milind Deora, just appointed the city unit president of the Congress party, had told The Hindu in an exhaustive interview about the challenges facing the the Mumbai Congress, including what he perceived as its slide towards identity-driven politics.

“For Congress to win elections in Mumbai, it needs a coalition of leaders from each and every community. Irrespective of the election result, you don’t want your party to look torn apart,” the former Union Minister of State for Telecommunications had said. On being asked if he wanted to become the Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee president, Mr. Deora had said, “That has not been my agenda. Even today, I won’t have any problem if Sanjay Nirupam continues. But we need to find [a] solution for the problem. [A] political party is like a human body where all leaders are vital organs and if it starts working without head or leg or any other organ, it won’t function? Today, it feels that the body isn’t fully geared up to contest. That is not good on the eve of elections. It has to be fixed. And if the solution is to replace him, so be it. We will see how to do it, whom to replace, what to do. But there has to be a response. We can’t bury it under the carpet and say all is good. It will be discussed, that’s my faith.”

Facing a challenge

It appears Mr. Deora’s faith paid off at last on Monday, but with little over a month left before Mumbaikars cast their votes in the polls on April 29, he faces a major challenge ahead.

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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 12:51:25 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/milind-deora-new-mumbai-congress-chief/article26638332.ece