While the Congress top brass has been cautious in its reaction to former Union minister and senior party leader Gurudas Kamat’s decision to quit the party, it now appears the reasons behind his discontent is more local than anything going on within the party at the top level.
Kamat was upset with the party leadership over decisions related to the Mumbai Congress, of which he was president in the past, and the impression that his supporters are being sidelined from routine functioning, sources said.
He was also unhappy over the choice of Sanjay Nirupam as city Congress chief and has publicly expressed his disapproval of the same. Party office-bearers from Kamat’s faction in the city unit complained that they were sidelined by Nirupam, leading to the widening of the rift between the warring groups.
Kamat’s discontent was visible during the two visits of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to Mumbai in the past five months. As an act of protest, Kamat skipped Gandhi’s ‘padyatra’ between Bandra and Dharavi over rising electricity bills in January and then the rally in support of jewellers in April.
Significantly, Kamat is known for sending his resignation to the party leadership when he is unhappy with certain decisions. He had quit as Youth Congress president and as a minister in the United Progressive Alliance government when he was not promoted as Cabinet minister.
A day after he announced his decision to resign from the party as well as politics, Kamat, 61, wrote to the party leadership and messaged his followers, insisting that he will continue to do social work but will not hold a party tag.
“I will continue to be available for people minus the party tag for whatever help or issues to be taken up with different agencies from this weekend,” Kamat stated in a text message to the media and his followers on Tuesday morning. “I would also like to emphasise that I have the highest respect and regard for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi and my resignation is purely on personal grounds.”
The resignation comes ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections scheduled early next year. Party insiders believe this will hamper Congress’ prospects as Kamat, if not pacified, will not hesitate to use the support he enjoys in Mumbai politics against it.
Another group in Mumbai Congress, however, believes that his threat of resignation is a pressure tactic as he wants to have a say in the affairs of the city unit during the municipal elections. They also pointed out that Kamat always had problems with those heading the city unit of the party — whether it was late Murli Deora or Kripashankar Singh.
Kamat, on the other hand, expressed his resentment at being ignored by the party leadership while informing his supporters on Monday evening of his resignation and “exit” from politics.
“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 honourable Congress president about 10 days ago and expressed a desire to resign,” stated Kamat in a text message to his close aides. “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.”
Kamat could not be reached for comment for this article despite repeated attempts.
Mohan Prakash, the All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, said, “I was in Bhopal attending a meeting of party legislators in connection with the Rajya Sabha elections. I have just come to know about the resignation. I will personally contact him and convince to revoke the decision.”
Kamat is a member of the Congress Working Committee and a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee. He was in-charge of party affairs of Rajasthan, where Congress lost the assembly elections badly in 2013.