Maharashtra Civic Election 2017: Will Gurudas Kamat help BJP achieve a Congress-mukt Mumbai?

Senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat is once again in the limelight. The Gandhi family loyalist and former union minister, who earlier resigned from his post in the party only to withdraw his resignation after meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is now withdrawing from the campaign for Mumbai civic polls due to the "negative attitude" of Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president Sanjay Nirupam.

File photo of Gurudas Kamat. News18

File photo of Gurudas Kamat. News18

Kamat is held in high esteem within the Congress. He was very close to late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and is known for his loyalty towards the party. But Kamat was upset after the Maharashtra Rajya Sabha nomination was given to former finance minister P Chidambaram.

Kamat, an advocate, is a commerce graduate and has an MBA. A five-time Lok Sabha member, Kamat served as both the president of the state unit of the Youth Congress and the national president of the Indian Youth Congress. In his 40-year political career, he enjoyed important posts in the Congress and a key portfolio in the Manmohan Singh regime.

Kamat was MRCC president for seven years (2003-2010), second only to senior Congress leader Murli Deora, who was MRCC president for more than 22 years. But after the Congress' defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, many Congress leaders found themselves fearing for their position within the party.

Kamat has twice served as a former union minister, but close aides said that he was capable of being a cabinet minister. Kamat has a very good rapport with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, although he maintains a distance with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Kamat resigned from his position as union minister of state prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, and even resigned from the Congress last year, but reconciled after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi promised him he would be part of the team that finalised the tickets for the 2017 BMC election.

However, just before the campaign kicked off, Kamat trained his guns on Sanjay Nirupam and his "negative" style of functioning.  Last week, Kamat told his supporters he was withdrawing from the campaign due to Nirupam's negative attitude. Kamat also feared his supporters and loyalists in the Nirupam regime would be sidelined and not receive any tickets.

Kamat has also alleged that Nirupam and All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Mohan Prakash were deliberately driving out party men at a time when Rahul Gandhi was busy with the Uttar Pradesh elections -- interestingly, Nirupam was appointed by Rahul Gandhi and both Nirupam and Prakash are close to Rahul.

Last Monday, Gurudas Kamat, tagging Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel and Sanjay Nirupam, tweeted, "Sad to see second generation (Former MLA Krishna Hegde) Congressmen forced to leave the party due to Nirupam and Mohan Prakash’s behaviour. Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel must stop the bleed." Hegde recently joined the BJP. Kamat also alluded to former Congress MLA Ramesh Thakur who joined the BJP, along with his son, a corporator in a follow up Tweet.

Rahul Gandhi has deputed former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda to try reconcile Nirupam and Kamat. Hooda will meet city Congress leaders, corporators, MLAs and former MPs on 25 January, 2017.

Nirupam told Firstpost that he has organized a meeting of senior leaders, district presidents, legislators, ex-MPs and ex-MLAs, on 25 January, along with Hooda, who will, as per the norms before every election, be attending as an AICC observer. Hooda will hold a series of meetings and take stock of the political situation in Mumbai, Nirupam said.

The Mumbai unit of the Congress has been in turmoil, but high command has instructed them to try to keep it under wraps until after the election. Sources said the meeting between Hooda and the core committee has wrapped up.

The BMC election will be held on 21 February, 2017. Only four weeks remain but as the power struggle between the leaders of the Congress continues, nobody seems to be focusing on what's important -- the state of the party.

More than two dozen of the 52 Congress corporators in the BMC are Kamat loyalists, so naturally, Kamat wants more seats for his supporters. However, a half dozen corporators have switched over to the BJP and Shiv Sena, and if this keeps up until the date the Congress distributes the tickets, it will be difficult for Kamat to retain his supporters. Kamat, who has been known for not engaging with the media, has done a complete 180, constantly being in touch with mediapersons and attending calls.

If the Congress can retain all 52 of its seats in the upcoming election under Sanjay Nirupam, it will be a major achievement. On the other hand, if the Congress suffers a drubbing, perhaps Gurudas Kamat may have indirectly helped the BJP achieve a Congress-mukt Mumbai.

Kamat, in a statement released on Wednesday, said, "Thank you all very much. I have made a firm resolve not to participate in the whole process in view of my experience with Nirupam and a few other colleagues whom I would  not like to name at this juncture. I would only like to remember fond memories and try and forget the shocking and unbelievable ones. I truly believe Mr Nirupam is deliberately working against the Congress party's interests for reasons which are obvious. I do not want the tag of a partner in crime, hence my firm decision to withdraw. My best wishes to all who worked with me to strengthen the Congress  party as much as we could. Thanks again."

Published Date: Jan 25, 2017 16:52 PM | Updated Date: Jan 25, 2017 16:52 PM

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