After keeping the post of Mumbai Congress president vacant for almost two years, the party has finally chosen former Bandra legislator JC Chandurkar to head its city unit.
By appointing Chandurkar, a known dalit leader of the party in Mumbai, the Congress high command is targeting Marathi and dalit vote banks.
The last time the Congress got a Marathi dalit president was some 30 years ago when NM Kamble was picked to lead the unit.
In Chandurkar, 65, the Congress would try to appease a large scheduled caste population — Marathi and non-Marathi — in the city ahead of Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
Being a son of the soil, he could appeal more to the local Marathi population, which is highly polarised by parties such as Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
His higher education – he is a former professor in linguistics and also a law graduate – could impress the educated middle class.
The appointment was delayed by about two years since warring factions in Mumbai Congress were lobbying for their respective nominees after the past president Kripashankar Singh quit in the wake of allegations of amassing assets disproportionate to his income.
With Chandurkar’s appointment, the party’s top brass is hoping to keep the factionalism in check.
Chandurkar said on Thursday that he would try his best to keep party workers happy.
“I had been a small worker who has scaled up to this level through hard work,” he said.
Congress leaders said Marathi leaders Bhai Jagtap and Madhu Chavan (both Maratha) and Chandrakant Handore and Eknath Gaikwad (both dalit) were also in the race for the top job, but they lost out due to their affiliation with one faction or the other.
"Chandurkar is relatively a neutral leader and a good communicator. The high command expects him to do a balancing act and keep all factions happy," said a Congress minister, requesting anonymity.