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2-min read

Why Congress Replaced Sanjay Nirupam With Milind Deora as Mumbai Chief So Close to Elections

The move, which has again brought forth internal factionalism in Congress, seems to be a last-ditch attempt to keep the party leaders in the financial capital united, before a crucial 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Vinaya Deshpande | CNN-News18

Updated:March 25, 2019, 10:54 PM IST
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Why Congress Replaced Sanjay Nirupam With Milind Deora as Mumbai Chief So Close to Elections
TV grab of Milind Deora from the exclusive interview to CNN-News18
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Mumbai: Internal strife in Mumbai Congress, coupled with a sense of disenchantment among the senior and old-hand Congress leaders, seems to have finally prompted the Congress high command to act and replace Sanjay Nirupam as the chief of the party unit with Murli Milind Deora.

Over a year after several internal complaints were made to Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi by delegations of Mumbai Congress leaders, the change of guard was announced on Monday.

The move, which has again brought forth internal factionalism in Congress, seems to be a last-ditch attempt to keep the party leaders in the financial capital united, before a crucial 2019 Lok Sabha election.

But the timing of the decision, just on the mouth of the elections, has been questioned by many. Over a month ago, in a rare candid chat with News18, Deora had opened up about the problems in Mumbai Congress.

"Many leaders from different communities feel excluded. A city like Mumbai should have an inclusive leadership. Are there any problems in Mumbai Congress? Yes. Can they be solved? Of course," he had said. Over a month later, he has been appointed to take charge.

A Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, said there were several problems.

“He clearly seemed unfavourable to leaders of other communities. There was too much of North Indian emphasis on everything. Mumbai is a multi-community city. Leaders of several communities have contributed to Congress' growth here. Even among North Indians, there was further factionalism," the leader told News18.

Several leaders, including late Gurudas Kamat, Kripashankar Singh, Naseem Khan, Priya Dutt, Milind Deora had expressed their displeasure about the working style of Nirupam. They had told Kharge and Rahul Gandhi about their grievances.

"He doesn't take everyone together. He does everything by himself. In a large party like Congress, you should at least consult other leaders. This gives a very bad impression. Leaders feel hurt," another Mumbai Congress leader said. Former MLA Varsha Gaikwad was also known to have been upset with Nirupam.

On the other hand, Nirupam seemed unfazed. He continued functioning in his trademark style, which was found to be brazen and careless by many. It also did not help that Nirupam was seen as an outsider, an import from the Shiv Sena.

Till a few days ago, the Nirupam camp had been confident he would continue as the chief. "There is no threat to Nirupam. Who else shows Congress' presence on the streets? He is seen as an aggressive and formidable face of the party in Mumbai," a leader had said a few days ago.

It was partially this reason that delayed Nirupam's ouster. His proactive nature and the ability to take issues to the masses was seen as a huge plus in a party where leaders weren’t seen on field as much.

Over the last one month, Nirupam was seen trying to make amends - from speaking highly of Deora during Rahul Gandhi's first Mumbai rally, to putting photographs with Priya Dutt on social media.

But the move was too little, too late. Finally, Nirupam has now been left to fight for the Mumbai North-West Lok Sabha seat. The struggles he will face there, will also not be easy. But they will definitely be lot easier than fighting the Mumbai North constituency, where he would have been likely to fail.
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