What resignation? The Congress party has outrightly denied that Gurudas Kamat, its tallest leader in Mumbai, has tendered his resignation, despite the former party general secretary himself stating – on record – that he has retired from the party and from politics.
Perhaps unable to stomach the criticism it received post Kamat’s and Chhattisgarh leader Ajit Jogi’s resignation, its media in-charge Randeep Surjewala issued a statement maintaining that Kamat continues to be an integral part of the Congress family.
“Kamat is a very seasoned and experienced leader. He is integral part of the Congress family. I categorically and squarely reject reports that he has resigned from the party.”
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“He was, is and will always remain a part of the Congress family. I am certain Congress leadership will discuss with him his future role and responsibility in the party so that it can benefit from his experience,” Surjewala told reporters, despite Kamat’s on-the-record statement.
Interestingly, Surjewala’s remark came hours after Kamat reiterated his stand saying his resignation was on personal grounds and that he had the ‘highest regard for the Gandhi family and the party.
Kamat had, in his note to the media, alleged that the Congress high command did not respond to his resignation letter for over a week. This is what he said:
“Dear friends, over the last 44 years, I have worked with most of you and served the Congress. For several months now, I have felt I need to take a backseat to enable others to get an opportunity. I met Congress president about 10 days ago and expressed my desire to resign. Subsequently, I sent letters to both Soniaji and Rahulji, saying that I would like to exit. Since there was no reply, I have formally informed that I would like to retire from politics. I would like to thank each one of you for all the cooperation I received and wish the ‘best to the party leadership’ and each one of you.”
Gurudas Kamat vs Sanjay Nirupam
There’s no doubt Kamat is one of the party’s biggest faces in Mumbai. His resignation comes ahead of next year’s Mumbai civic elections, where Congress is hoping to dislodge the incumbent Shiv Sena-BJP combine.
What perhaps is bothering Kamat loyalists is the appointment of his known detractor Sanjay Nirupam as the head of the city unit of the party.
Nirupam defected from the Shiv Sena in 2007 and rose to the top within the party, and has reportedly got the backing of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Kamat, a five-time MP from Mumbai, served as the chief of the Congress in Mumbai. He was credited with his party winning five of Mumbai’s six Lok Sabha seats in 2004. The dream run was interrupted when the party lost the Mumbai municipality in 2007.
Several leaders in the Mumbai-unit of the Congress party have also questioned Nirupam’s style of functioning, alleging that senior party leaders have been sidelined and Nirupam loyalists have been promoted.
“Discontent among party leaders has grown in the past one-and-a-half years. Even when Rahul Gandhi visited Mumbai, he had advised Nirupam to take everyone together, but it doesn’t seem like he got the message. He continued with his same unilateral style,” a former corporator and a local Congress functionary told The Indian Express.
Nirupam’s reaction? “Gurudas Kamat’s resignation is an issue between him and the party high command.”
Will Kamat be back?
His supporters maintain that he never backtracks on his decisions. The last time Kamat tendered his resignation was under the UPA government when Milind Deora — another former Mumbai Congress MP — was given a berth in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet and Kamat was shifted to the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, which is perceived to be insignificant. Kamat had then said he wanted to move away from active politics and play less of a role in the government and the party.
On Tuesday, party leaders Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan unsuccessfully attempted to get in touch with Kamat, while party workers gathered outside his Mumbai residence chanting slogans against Nirupam. Many Mumbai party volunteers took to Twitter in an attempt to get #IStandWithGurudasKamat to trend.
Kamat’s resignation, however, comes at a time when speculation is rife that Rahul is ready with a list of new AICC General Secretaries that will see many party veterans being moved to an advisory role. The rejig of almost all Congress committees is being managed by Rahul’s team headed by K Raju. The process of his elevation is likely to begin in the next few weeks and is expected to see young faces at the helm of affairs.
Will Kamat get a new role now that Surjewala has ‘rejected reports’ of his resignation? Only time will tell.