Differences within the Congress’s Mumbai unit were out in the open when two MLAs and their supporters squabbled on Tuesday over the route and programme for the two-day visit of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
The groups led by legislators Arif Naseem Khan and Aslam Shaikh almost came to blows at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the party’s city unit office at Azad Maidan, where a meeting was convened to decide the schedule for Gandhi’s visit on January 15 and 16.
The Congress vice-president will address party leaders at the Azad Maidan office, lead a protest march from Bandra to Dharavi to highlight high electricity tariff in the city, meet students at NM College and hold a rally, according to the itinerary prepared by the Mumbai unit.
The programme covers five parliamentary constituencies in the city but leaves out the North-East seat, which was once represented by Gurudas Kamat. This triggered the fight between the two groups.
When Chandivali legislator Khan, a former minister, objected to the programme, the party’s Malad MLA Shaikh and member of the legislative council (MLC) Bhai Jagtap told him that it was final and couldn’t be changed, sources said.
Soon a bitter fight broke out among their supporters, although Khan later denied any such alternation occurred.
Jagtap too maintained a similar line. “There was slogan-shouting during the meeting but it is not true that the workers fought.”
The city unit has been suffering bouts of discord after its in-house magazine, Congress Darshan, ran an article in December that showed the party’s tallest leaders Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in poor light.
Khan had demanded the resignation of Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam while former city chief Kamat took the issue to the party high command in Delhi.
Party sources said Rahul Gandhi’s visit could defuse the tension for the time being. His padayatra or protest march against high power tariff will be the people-connect programme.
“After surveys in the city, we realised that power tariff was the most crucial issue among the people. So, we decided to take it up,” Nirupam said.