A faction in the Mumbai Congress has sought the ouster of city unit chief Sanjay Nirupam and his replacement with former MP Milind Deora “for better results” in the upcoming polls, party sources said.
The faction, comprising some senior city leaders, met Congress general secretary in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge here Sunday and contended the party “would not win a single seat in Mumbai” if Nirupam continues in the post, they said.
According to the sources, the faction, which has questioned Nirupam’s leadership, would also meet party president Rahul Gandhi to flag its concerns.
Nirupam, a former MP, took charge as Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president in March 2015.
However, another group supporting Nirupam is learnt to have cautioned Kharge against removing the Mumbai unit chief given “the elections are just around the corner and that the party needs to put up a united show”.
Senior leaders like former MRCC chiefs Kripashankar Singh and Janardan Chandurkar, former state minister Naseem Khan, Madhu Chavan, Baba Siddiqui, Bhai Jagtap and Amin Patel were part of the delegation that met Kharge.
The anti-Nirupam faction had recently sought Gandhi’s appointment to press for their demand for a change of leadership at the MRCC. Responding, Gandhi had then asked Kharge to listen to the seniors, the sources said.
“All these senior leaders are worried about the party’s dwindling fortunes under the current city leadership. The Mumbai Congress chief is controversial (for the remarks he makes) which hurts the party’s prospects,” said a leader, requesting anonymity.
The leader said the delegation (of anti-Nirupam leaders) told Kharge that the tickets distribution for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls (held in February 2017) was “improper” and allegedly favoured a particular group within the party, leading to its poor show.
The party, which once had more than 50 corporators in the BMC, is left with fewer members in the country’s richest civic body due to flawed tickets distribution under Nirupam’s watch, the leader contended.
A group of Congress workers, who owed allegiance to late party veteran Gurudas Kamat, also seconded the views opined by the senior leaders in a separate meeting with Kharge, he added.
“People in the party think that not a single party candidate will win in the next election if the present party committee is to lead its campaign. They feel a new face in the form of (Milind) Deora as city chief will give better results for the party,” the leader added.
The leader said Kharge listened to the grievances “patiently”. The general secretary also told the faction he would convey its grievances to Gandhi.
The group led by Nirupam, however, told Kharge that effecting a change of guard when polls are nearing would have “debilitating effect” on the party’s poll prospects, another source said.
“Those who are complaining themselves are on their way to the BJP. Destabilising the unit now would hamper our outing in the election is what the Nirupam supporters told Kharge in a separate meeting,” the source added.
Meanwhile, supporters of Kamat are learnt to have told Kharge to see the late leader’s wife Maharookh is fielded as the Congress candidate from the Mumbai North-West Lok Sabha constituency.
Kamat, a former Union minister, had once represented the seat. Mumbai accounts for six Parliamentary and 36 assembly seats. The Congress had drawn a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the city.
In 2009, the party had won five Lok Sabha seats from Mumbai. Besides the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, the state will also see assembly elections in the second half of next year.
Maharashtra sends 48 MPs to the Lok Sabha and has a 288-member assembly. The MRCC was set up to look after the Congress affairs in Mumbai, while MPCC handles party affairs in the rest of the state.