Mumbai: The infighting within the Congress was out for everyone to see within hours of actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar tendering her resignation from the grand old party.
Hours after Matondkar announced her exit, senior Congress leader Milind Deora trained his guns at Sanjay Nirupam.
Nirupam, who has also held the post of Mumbai Congress chief, is known to wield considerable influence in Mumbai North and had even unsuccessfully contested the 2014 elections from the constituency.
“After Urmila Matondkar decided to fight Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai North, I supported her campaign wholeheartedly as Mumbai Congress 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,” Deora said in a tweet.
Incidentally, it was Nirupam who had brought Matondkar to the party fold. But during her Lok Sabha campaign earlier this year, Matondkar had pinned the blame of her failure on two local Congress leaders who were close to Nirupam. The issues were never resolved. On the contrary, her letter was leaked to the media, causing huge embarrassment to the Congress. With such developments, it should come as no surprise why Matondkar chose to blame a few leaders from North Mumbai.
Matondkar, who joined the Congress in March, was fielded from Mumbai North in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but was defeated by BJP stalwart Gopal Shetty.
In a statement after resigning, Matondkar observed that the key functionaries of the Mumbai Congress are either unable to or are not committed to transform the party.
“The first thought of resignation came to me when after my repeated efforts, no action was taken in pursuance of my letter dated May 16, addressed to then Mumbai Congress President Mr Milind Deora. Thereafter, to my utter dismay, the said letter containing privileged and confidential communication was conveniently leaked to the media which, according to me, was an act of blatant betrayal," Matondkar wrote in her resignation letter.
"Needless to say, no one from the party was apologetic or even concerned towards me for the same despite my repeated protests. Significantly, some of the persons specifically named in my letter for the shoddy performance of the Indian National Congress in Mumbai North were rewarded with newer positions instead of holding them accountable for their acts and omissions," she added.
"However, it is obvious that the key functionaries of Mumbai Congress are either unable or not committed to bring about a change and transformation in the organisation for betterment of the party. My political and social sensibilities refuse to allow vested interests in the party to use me as a mean to fight petty in-house politics instead of working on a bigger goal in Mumbai Congress,” she said.
The seeds of discontent lie in the botched-up Lok Sabha campaigning the Congress organised for Matondkar. More specifically, the men appointed by Nirupam sabotaged her campaign, she felt. In an irony of sorts, Nirupam, who brought Matondkar into the Congress, now stands as a culprit. While his political rival Deora seems to find himself in Matondkar's good books.
In her tweets and communication over the last few months, Matondkar extensively thanked Deora for his support. “My heartfelt gratitude to Milind Deora ji, president of Mumbai Congress, for your constant support throughout the campaign. Thank you to Ashok Chavan ji and Mallikarjun Kharge ji for your wise counsel and guidance,” she had tweeted after the end of her campaign.
Deora had replaced Nirupam as the Mumbai Congress chief ahead of the Lok Sabha polls held in April-May. He resigned from the post in June, owning responsibility for the party’s dismal performance at the polls.
Matondkar had tweeted her disappointment at Deora's resignation. “Disappointed by the resignation of Milind Deora who was a ray of hope for Mumbai Congress and changes to come for future betterment. We have lot to be done and very little time,” she had said.
In a letter written to Deora in May, Matondkar had squarely blamed Sandesh Kondwilkar, her chief campaign organiser, and Bhushan Patil, another North Mumbai Congress leader, for her defeat. Incidentally, both these men are known to be in Nirupam's close circles. Is this another fallout of the dirty infighting within Mumbai Congress? Nirupam did not respond to the several attempts made to get in touch with him.
As in 2014, Deora lost to Union minister Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena from the Mumbai South seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Following Deora’s resignation, Nirupam had accused the former MP of hankering for a national-level post. Nirupam had also criticised Deora's suggestion to set up a panel comprising three senior Congress leaders to oversee the Mumbai unit till the Maharashtra Assembly polls, saying such a move would "ruin" the party further.