INFIGHTING IN the Mumbai Congress came to the fore yet again on Tuesday with actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar citing “petty in-house” politics as the reason for her exit from the party.
The 44-year-old actor had joined the party in March ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The party had fielded her from the Mumbai (North) constituency against BJP’s Gopal Shetty. She had ended up on the losing side.
On Tuesday, after tendering her resignation to party president Sonia Gandhi, Matondkar released a statement blaming infighting as the reason for her disenchantment. “My political and social sensibilities refuse to allow vested interests in the party to use me as a means to fight petty in-house politics instead of working on a bigger goal in the Mumbai Congress,” she said.
Factionalism within the Congress was blamed for the party’s disastrous performance in Mumbai in the Lok Sabha polls, where it failed to win even a single seat for the second consecutive time. Now, just ahead of the Assembly polls, the fissures have come to the fore yet again.
Incidentally, Matondkar’s resignation came on a day when the Congress central screening committee for the Maharashtra polls was holding consultations on the probables for the 36 Assembly seats in Mumbai.
Party insiders said that the actor was upset that names recommended by her for some of the seats in Mumbai (North) were not considered. The actor had allegedly recommended some candidates for the Kandivali (East) and the Magathane seats.
Also under cloud was her decision to induct a suspended former Congress leader from Magathane, which was allegedly done without consultation with the Mumbai Congress leadership.
However, in her official statement, Matondkar claimed that the first thought of resignation had came to her after no action was taken over a letter she had written to then Mumbai city unit president Milind Deora on May 16.
In the letter, she had reportedly criticised some senior office-bearers in Mumbai (North) for her defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. “To my utter dismay, the letter containing privileged and confidential communication was conveniently leaked to the media, which according to me was an act of blatant betrayal. Needless to say, no one from the party was apologetic or even concerned towards me for the same despite my repeated protests,” Matondkar said in her statement.
“Significantly, some of the persons specifically named in my letter for the shoddy performance of the Congress in Mumbai North were rewarded with newer positions instead of holding them accountable for their acts and omissions. It is obvious that the key functionaries of the Mumbai Congress are either unable or not committed to bring about a change and transformation in the organisation for the betterment of the party,” she added.
Refuting the allegations, Mumbai Congress general secretary Bhushan Patil, who was one of those Matondkar had blamed in her letter, said: “It is unfortunate that she has raised such allegations. We ran a good election campaign and the party workers in Mumbai North had sincerely worked for her. We had also put in our own resources into her election campaign. Such allegations impact the morale of the workers.”
Those named in Matondkar’s letter are considered to be close to former city unit president Sanjay Nirupam.
Nirupam, meanwhile, urged Matondkar to “reconsider” her decision, while contending that it was the “responsibility of then Mumbai Congress president (Milind Deora) to look into the concerns that she had raised”. “Instead her letter, which was addressed to him (Deora), was leaked,” he said.
Terming his resignation as unfortunate, Nirupam added, “Infighting is a part of any political organisation. We should all strive to overcome it instead of giving up.” Nirupam and Deora have been at loggerheads for sometime now. It was Nirupam that had convinced Matondkar to join the party.
Targetting Nirupam over the actor’s resignation, Deora, meanwhile, tweeted, “After @UrmilaMatondkar decided to fight LS elections from Mumbai North, I supported her campaign wholeheartedly as @INCMumbai President. I stood by her when she was let down by those who brought her into the party. Fully agree that Mumbai North leaders must be held accountable.”
With former Mumbai Congress president Kripashankar Singh, who also resigned from the party on Tuesday, being tipped to join the BJP, Nirupam, who is seen as Singh’s sworn political rival, targetted him. “In such times when the party is in trouble, it is sad that those who have enjoyed fruits of power over the years are deserting it… It was well known that Singh had been in contact with the BJP for a while now. It is not a coincidence that he was discharged in the disproportionate assets case. Congratulations to the BJP for recruiting one more tainted face,” he said.