Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was forced to step in Thursday to get the Congress house in order in Mumbai North-Central, the hitherto strong bastion of the party.
Sitting MP Priya Dutt’s poll campaign has been hit by internal dissension, with party workers in certain Assembly belts staying away from active participation.
On Thursday, Chavan convened a meeting in a suburban hotel where Dutt, all party legislators from the constituency, and Mumbai Congress chief Janardan Chandurkar, who also hails from the constituency, were present. Sources said internal differences were discussed threadbare at the meeting, which lasted for two hours.
In a multi-cornered contest, Dutt, who is seeking a second term, faces challenge from Bharatiya Janata Party’s Poonam Mahajan and Samajwadi Party’s Farhan Azmi. The Aam Aadmi Party, too, has fielded noted lawyer Phiroze Palkhiwala from the constituency.
The Dutt camp holds a grudge and has been accusing Mumbai (suburbs) Guardian Minister Naseem Khan, a legislator from Chandivali, former Mumbai chief Kripashankar Singh, a legislator from Kalina, and Chandurkar, a former legislator from Kherwadi, of not backing her poll campaign to settle scores with her.
But sources said these leaders countered the allegations and contended that “the party’s local office-bearers in these segments felt betrayed by Dutt’s style of functioning and had lost confidence in her, due to which there was discontent”.
Khan is coordinating the party’s poll campaign in Mumbai South and Mumbai South Central and has also been campaigning as a star campaigner in various minority-dominated constituencies across Maharashtra. Singh has been assigned the task of overseeing actor and party candidate Ravi Kishen’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur. Leaders said the candidature of SP’s Farhan Azmi was also discussed at length. The meeting ended with all sides agreeing to set aside differences and work for the party’s success. Party sources said they were now hoping that things would start looking up for Dutt.
Khan, when contacted, however denied that there was any internal difference ever. He said the meeting was held to discuss preparations for Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s rally in Mumbai on April 20. While Dutt remained
unavailable for comment, her close aide and Congress legislator Krishna Hegde, who was present at the meeting, toed Khan’s line. A senior Congress leader, however, confirmed that resolving internal differences was the main reason behind the meeting.