Does Gurudas Kamat's resignation signal the end for Congress in Maharashtra? - Firstpost

Does Gurudas Kamat's resignation signal the end for Congress in Maharashtra?

After a series of electoral defeats, the Congress is once again banking on a Gandhi for its revival. Reports suggest that Rahul Gandhi will soon be anointed as the Congress president and the party will go through a complete overhaul where the old guard will make way for the "young" ones. But a change in central leadership is unlikely to change the party fortunes. What Congress needs to focus on are the state units and regional leaders who have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction over the Delhi's bigwigs way of handling party matters.

Himanta Biswa Sarma's defection to BJP, cost the Congress the Assam Assembly polls and now Ajit Jogi's announcement of floating a new party poses a new threat to the Grand Old Party in Chhattisgarh. The story is somewhat similar in Maharashtra.

File photo of Gurudas Kamat. News18

File photo of Gurudas Kamat. News18

Former Union minister and senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat on Monday resigned from the party and announced his retirement from politics. He was the secretary of All-India Congress Committee and in-charge of Congress unit in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu. In fact, he was instrumental in Congress' win in Gujarat zilla parishad and panchayat elections. Considered a Congress loyalist, Kamat was close to Rajiv Gandhi. However, he has been left out of the Rahul Gandhi camp.

Kamat has a significant hold on the party corporators and youth workers and his presence would have been important for the Congress to win the Mumbai civic polls next year. Of the 62 corporators, Kamat has the support of 50. He also has the support of prominent Congress leaders like Priya Dutt, Eknath Gaikwad. Sources told Firstpost that many of the MLAs and corporators from Kamat's camp have threatened to give their resignation to the party high command.

In his text message to party workers, he wrote:

Dear friends, over the last more than 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 the Opportunity. I met Hon Cong President about 10 days ago and expressed a desire to resign. Subsequently I sent letters to both Soniaji and Rahulji 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.

Sources in the party said that Kamat was not happy about the recent Rajya Sabha nominations and for getting sidelined in the Mumbai unit. He made his displeasure known across party lines after Sanjay Nirupam was elected as the Congress Mumbai party chief. Sources said that the party secretaries whose tenure was coming to an end on 15 June were asked to submit their resignation by Congress vice-president's team.

The Congress suffered its worst defeat in the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly Election. The Congress-NCP alliance could clinch only six of the 48 seats. The anti-incumbency against the 15-year rule of the Congress-NCP government and the Modi wave together managed to wipe out Congress from the state. Ironically, former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who has been named in the multi-crore Adash scam, won the Congress seat in Nanded.

After the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh, the party has been rudderless in Maharashtra. It was with Rahul's backing that Ashok Chavan was made the head of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. However, the recent Bombay High Court directive to demolish the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, could render a severe blow to the party's prospects in Maharashtra under Chavan's leadership. Sanjay Nirupam, the Mumbai's Congress chief, has no influence outside the city.

The strained relationship between the old alliance partners Congress and the NCP did not help matters. The two parties came at loggerheads over seat sharing during the Maharashtra Assembly elections in 2014. There were reports that the NCP President Sharad Pawar held a secret meeting with Narendra Modi ahead of the elections. Later, Pawar dismissed the reports. After Navi Mumbai Municipal polls in 2015, Ashok Chavan had said, "Due to the coalition with NCP, Congress organisation faced a virtual extinction in several districts like Jalgaon, Beed, Thane among others. Our endeavour will be to strengthen the party organisation in such districts."

According to The Indian Express, Rahul Gandhi has proposed holding primaries for selecting candidates for the Mumbai civic polls in February 2017. A model which is followed in the US, a candidate has to fight out the primary elections to get a party ticket. The report added that though the party has not won the civic polls is two decades, this election is crucial to remain relevant in Maharashtra, which was once a Congress bastion.

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