Over the last two months, Kirit Somaiya, the former BJP MP who represented Mumbai North-East, has led a noisy campaign to make the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Mumbai look bad. From circulating videos of bodies lying in hospital corridors to a crusade against the BMC’s makeshift Covid centre at Bandra Kurla Complex, Somaiya has been going at the government relentlessly.
But in the recent restructuring of the BJP state unit announced by its president Chandrakant Patil, Somaiya, a former BJP national general secretary, was unceremoniously removed as a vice-president, and left out in the cold, just as he was for the 2019 parliamentary elections. Somaiya was replaced by Manoj Kotak for Mumbai North-East Lok Sabha constituency in the 2019 elections. Kotak won the seat.
Ever the loyalist, if Somaiya was disappointed, he hid it well then, and he has done so a second time now.
Underplaying his demotion to a simple party worker, Somaiya said he had no complaints, and that he had “excellent relations” with all the party bosses. “I have reached a stage where commitment to people has become more significant than any position in an organisation. This has always been my strength and earned me a lot of respect to pursue public causes. When I pursued the 2006 train blast victims’ compensation or the 2008 terror attack victims’ relief and rehabilitation or floods in Mithi river to their logical end, I did not have any post in the BJP nor was a Member of Parliament,” Somaiya said.
Somaiya said the decision to expose what he called the administration’s “lapses” in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic was “part of my public commitment as a BJP worker”. He said it was because of the same public commitment that when Health Minister Rajesh Tope appealed for blood donations to improve the dangerously low storage levels in blood banks, he responded “in public interest” within 24 hours. “I don’t want to bring politics into this. I will continue my work to give justice to people. It is for the party to determine an individual’s role and post,” Somaiya said.
A resident of Mulund, he has held several key posts in the party. From BJP Yuva Morcha president to two-term MP in the Lok Sabha and one-term MLA in the State Legislative Assembly. A Chartered Accountant by profession, Somaiya had a keen sense of awareness about the inner functioning of Dalal Street and corporate India. His propensity to take up investor and consumer issues had led to him being appointed as the national convenor of the Anti-Corruption-Scam Expose Committee of the BJP. Used to target Opposition non-BJP leaders, Somaiya was used as a lynchpin to attack Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray in the run-up to the 2017 BMC elections when the two parties were in an alliance.
His reference to “Mafia of Bandra” was deemed as a personal affront to Thackeray. One of the peace offerings demanded by the Sena when it decided to renew its alliance with the BJP in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was the denial of a BJP ticket to Somaiya.
With the BJP, however, now at loggerheads with the Sena, Somaiya tried to reprise his role as the bulwark of the BJP’s attack on the Sena-led government, but for all appearances, at his own initiative. In spite of his persistence in attacking the Sena-led government, Somaiya, after being dropped from the state executive committee, now finds himself in political wilderness. A one-time close confidante of BJP leader L K Advani, his declining political heft with the party high command has meant that his path to rehabilitation is likely to be arduous.
The BJP, meanwhile, has suggested that it has already drafted the career paths of leaders who have been dropped from the state executive committee. “Somaiya is BJP’s frontline warrior. Whether it is Covid-19 or crossing swords with Matoshree,” said a former BJP minister, adding that Somaiya’s “lone crusader” style works well for the party. “Why give it official status. It also helps the BJP keep things open-ended with the Sena.”
A week after the party restructuring in which he was sidelined, Somaiya was back to doing what he knows best — making a noise — this time about hospital mismanagement in Thane.
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