Mumbai Congress leaders demand change at the helm ahead of Assembly polls

The leaders argue that the party’s Mumbai unit chief Varsha Gaikwad, who recently won the Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha seat, will be unable to dedicate sufficient time to organisational matters

Published - June 25, 2024 01:37 am IST - Mumbai

A file photo of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee president Varsha Gaikwad at her residence in Mumbai.

A file photo of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee president Varsha Gaikwad at her residence in Mumbai. | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Senior Congress leaders in Mumbai have called for replacing city unit chief and Dalit leader Varsha Gaikwad to strengthen the organisation ahead of the crucial Maharashtra Assembly election in October.

The leaders argue that Ms. Gaikwad, who recently secured a victory in Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha seat, will be unable to dedicate sufficient time to organisational matters. They have also expressed dissatisfaction with her leadership style.

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Speaking to The Hindu, a former Minister said that due to Ms. Gaikwad’s new responsibilities, she would struggle to focus on organisational duties. Consequently, they have urged the party high command to consider replacing her. “It’s been over a year since she assumed office, and we haven’t seen any progress. People are leaving the party due to a lack of coordination,” he claimed.

Seek meeting with top leadership

In a letter dated June 16, addressed to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, the 16 leaders, including Rajya Sabha member Chandrakant Handore, former city party chiefs Janardhan Chandurkar and Bhai Jagtap, and former Minister Naseem Khan, requested a meeting to discuss revitalising the party in the country’s financial capital before the Assembly election, and the overdue municipal polls.

“Over the past few months, there has been a noticeable shift in public sentiment in Mumbai especially after Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay Yatra, which concluded in Mumbai. Various other factors, including dissatisfaction with the current administration and a growing desire for progressive leadership, have created a conducive environment for the INC to regain its foothold in this crucial metropolis. However, to capitalise on this momentum, it is imperative that we focus on fortifying our organisational framework in Mumbai,” the letter stated.

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Strengthening the organisational capabilities would not only boost the Congress’s electoral prospects but also help in building a sustained and impactful presence in Mumbai, it further read.

The leaders, who went to Delhi to meet Mr. Kharge, AICC general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal and other leaders, claim that Ms. Gaikwad failed to convene all party leaders at the city unit office during a recent protest related to UGC-NET exam issues, prompting them to organise a separate protest in the suburbs. They also allege that despite being in office for 13 months, Ms. Gaikwad has not initiated significant efforts to mobilise the party’s grassroots.

Gaikwad dismisses criticism

When contacted, Ms. Gaikwad, however, dismissed these assertions, stating she had no knowledge of the letter. “A specific group is not only opposing me but undermining everyone. Even if someone else takes over, they would criticise the new president’s work. Instead of working against party leaders, they should offer constructive suggestions to strengthen the organisation.”

In the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election, the Congress managed to secure only four out of 36 seats in Mumbai. In the recently concluded Lok Sabha election, the party won one out of two contested seats in the city.

Meanwhile, a core committee meeting related to Maharashtra in view of the upcoming Assembly polls is scheduled for tomorrow in New Delhi.

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