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Loyalists vs outsiders battle in Maha Congress prompted Kamat’s exit

india Updated: Jun 07, 2016 19:20 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times
Gurudas Kamat

Gurudas Kamat, Sachin Pilot and Mlind Deora during a function of release the Commemorative Postage Stamp on the late V S Page at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

Senior party leader and former Union minister Gurudas Kamat’s resignation from the Congress came as a surprise to many of his colleagues but not to his supporters who claim that “matters had turned worse” in the past three months.

Congress leaders are keeping a close watch on Kamat who while announcing his resignation from the party and retirement from active politics maintained that he would continue to do the social work.

Kamat’s move came on a day former Chhattisgarh chief minister and another veteran Congress leader Ajit Jogi quit the party to form his own political outfit.

The Congress also suffered a setback in Tripura where its sitting legislator Jitendra Sarkar quit the party and the assembly on Monday. The crisis deepened further when another group of six of the 10 legislators also quit the party in protest against its electoral understanding with the CPM-led Left Front in recent West Bengal assembly polls.

A Maharashtra Congress leader said it had become impossible for Kamat to stay put in the party where “outsiders” were given precedence over “loyalists”.

Kamat and Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, who is originally from Bihar and left the Shiv Sena to join the party, were often at loggerheads over issues related to the functioning of the city unit.

Miffed over Nirupam’s unilateral decisions, Kamat had last year slammed him for allegedly threatening Mumbai municipal commissioner over the eviction of hawkers. As the matters worsened further, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi stepped in to play the role of a peacemaker and made desperate attempts to iron out the differences between the two leaders.

Kamat was also upset with the style of functioning of Mohan Prakash, the Congress general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra. He had repeatedly complained to the Congress high command about Prakash, accusing him of ignoring party loyalists during appointments.

His supporters cited the cases of having an “outsider” Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who was earlier with the Shiv Sena, as a Congress legislature party (CLP) leader in the Maharashtra assembly and nominating Narayan Rane, also an ex-Shiv Sainik, to the legislative council despite having lost the 2014 state assembly elections.

However, Kamat’s aides dismissed the suggestion that the immediate provocation was nominating former finance minister P Chidambaram to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.

“He had never sought a Rajya Sabha seat. Kamat is a fighter, who has won and lost elections. He will never prefer a back door entry to Parliament,” one of his close aides said on the condition of anonymity.

In July 2011, an upset Kamat resigned from the Congress-led UPA government, headed by Manmohan Singh, after being appointed as a minister of state with independent charge of the then newly-created portfolio of drinking water and sanitation. He expressed the desire to work for the party.

But two years later in 2013, Kamat was named as a Congress general secretary and given the charge of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Daman and Diu, besides Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a post on which he continued till his resignation.

His supporters ruled out that he will take back his resignation.