Upset with the Dalit wooing tactics by other major parties, including its ally the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress may replace its current Mumbai region president Kripashankar Singh with a Dalit leader.
Sources in the party said the Congress was seriously mulling in this direction and trying to make a consensus on one among the three — Member of Parliament Eknath Gaikwad, legislator Chandrakant Handore and ex- legislator Janardan Chandurkar.
All are locals and sons of the soil while Singh is a north Indian migrant.
“There’s a strong feeling in the party that a Dalit be made head of the Mumbai Congress because the Shiv Sena and BJP have joined hands with the Republican Party of India headed by Ramdas Athawale. We may be able to hold on to our sizable Dalit vote bank in next years’ civic polls if we manage to give a good Dalit leader,” said a party general secretary.
On Friday, the NCP came out in the city with a policy document that promises to better the lives of backward class people. It reiterated the demand for renaming the Dadar railway station as Chaityabhoomi. The Shiv Sena-BJP-RPI alliance held a rally to protest against the Congress-led government at Azad Maidan.
“Mumbai region’s current president Kripashankar Singh will bow out soon. The high command doesn’t want to continue with him because of several controversies he has courted so far,” said the leader, adding that the party high command had finished appointing presidents of state and region units except a few like Mumbai.
Non-Dalit youth MP Milind Deora, who was tipped as a hot favourite for the post, will have to make way for a backward class candidate. Congress insiders said that selecting someone from the aspirants would be tough task, primarily because of faction feud in the city Congress.
“The Gurudas Kamat camp wants Handore to replace Singh while Deora camp is pitching for Gaikwad. Gaikwad’s name is being opposed because his daughter Varsha is a cabinet minister in the state. Their opponents argue that the Gaikwad family cannot get so much when others await their turn,” the party general secretary said.
With the two groups warring incessantly, Chandurkar, who is not affiliated to any such leaders, might prove a consensus candidate. “The English-speaking Chandurkar is the party’s urban Dalit face, who has the ability to connect with all,” said a senior Congress leader.