A vocal critic of Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam’s style of functioning, Gurudas Kamat, a five-time MP from Mumbai, questions poll preparations and announces that he won’t campaign for the party in Mumbai. Excerpts from an interview to Sandeep Ashar:
Even Congress workers would like to know what has hurt you so much that you have distanced yourself from the party’s election process in Mumbai?
Common workers and leaders of the party are unaware of the daily scheming and plotting that has been going on to denigrate my reputation as a loyalist. I’ve built this over 45 years, and can’t allow a ten-year entrant (read Sanjay Nirupam) in the party to damage it. It is also sad that Nirupam is targeting every person associated with me. He holds some animus against me that he can’t get over.
It was your decision not to vie for the Mumbai party chief’s post again. Some in the party are questioning your non-cooperation to Nirupam.
Rightly asked. When my supporters are undermined and the entire cadre and structure I built over 45 years is uprooted, how do you think I should respond? I’m standing up and fighting for them.
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But don’t you think the sparring in public has dented the party’s election campaign?
No. One statement from him and one from me cannot dethrone the party’s whole campaign. I also wish to clarify that I haven’t even demanded Nirupam’s removal. All I’ve been asking for is that everyone be taken into confidence. Sadly, this isn’t being done.
Could you elaborate more on your accusation that people are not being taken into confidence?
I can state several instances. Milind Deora was appointed as chairman of the party’s campaign committee. As a five-time Mumbai MP, don’t I reserve the right to know what is the election strategy and the implementation plan? Secondly, nobody seems to know about the party’s manifesto. None of us were taken into confidence while drafting it. I ask what is the problem in sharing these to all MPs, MLAs, and senior leaders who can articulate their own views in this regard. Our demand that the party’s executive committee be called to discuss recommendations of the poll strategy panel headed by Kripashankar Singh (former MLA) was also overlooked.
The ticket war appears to have intensified resulting in an exodus of some sitting and former corporators, former MLAs. What are your views on the ticket distribution?
There is total chaos. No norms have been finalised for ticket distribution. The frontal organisations have been sidelined for two years. While Nirupam has been issuing sound bytes saying the tickets are being distributed transparently, this is not the case. Some district presidents are even being pressured for not recommending the candidature of some of the aspirants. This is exactly why I have been raising my voice.
There is an allegation that those against Nirupam are sabotaging his bid?
We (all former MPs from Mumbai) have already given an undertaking to Rahulji (Rahul Gandhi) that we would be jointly accountable to ensure that party fares well and wins the polls. That’s why the agony. Nothing is being done to win the election. Sanjay Nirupam hasn’t done anything to win the election for us. No rally is being planned, there is no effort to take people along, the selection process for candidates is being influenced. Not organising a grand election rally would send a message that we lack confidence, which would be disastrous.
Elections are barely 20 days away. Is it too late for the Congress? How do you rate your party’s chances given that Shiv Sena and the BJP have split?
In the condition that we see now where the Shiv Sena and the BJP are going at each other’s throat and raising all sorts of allegations against each other, the Congress stands an excellent chance of closing in or even exceeding the majority mark in the civic elections. It is not too late. But for this Nirupam must take all into confidence. Any president who wants victory has to keep his personal animus aside in the larger interest of the party. I feel sad that my experience is not being called for; so I have withdrawn from the entire process. I’ve informed the party that I won’t campaign in Mumbai, while being available for other parts of the state.
You have been critical of Nirupam’s functioning for a while now. But why is the high command yet to take note?
That’s incorrect. Rahul Gandhi sent former Haryana CM Bhupinder Hoodaji to Mumbai. The party’s central leadership, for which I have the highest regard, is busy with elections in the five states. It is the responsibility of AICC Maharashtra (in-charge) to handle matters here. In Gujarat, where I’m the AICC in-charge, we have already completed the process of inviting applications from the next year’s Assembly polls and appointing the screening committee.