In a development that was long in the making, former Union Minister Milind Deora quit the Congress and joined the ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. His announcement came on a day when the party launched a 6,200 km march from the Northeast to muster support ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Talking to the media, Mr Deora said that he resigned as he wanted to support the “path of development”. However, there are a myriad of factors that contributed to his decision to cut ties with the party his family has been a part of for 55 years.
Today marks the conclusion of a significant chapter in my political journey. I have tendered my resignation from the primary membership of @INCIndia, ending my family’s 55-year relationship with the party.
I am grateful to all leaders, colleagues & karyakartas for their…
— Milind Deora | मिलिंद देवरा ☮️ (@milinddeora) January 14, 2024
Sources cited growing friction between Milind Deora and Maharashtra Congress leaders as a significant factor. The internal disagreements, though not explicitly detailed, appear to have contributed to a decision that may reshape the party’s poll strategy for Maharashtra.
The 47-year-old decided to leave the party after a “very long and futile wait”, sources said.
The exit also highlights the disconnect and inaccessibility of the Gandhi family with the lower rung of party leadership, amid the dwindling fortunes of Congress, which the young leaders are unable to accept.
Mr Deora, son of Congress veteran Murli Deora, had won the Mumbai South seat in 2004 and 2009. He lost to Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant in the 2014 and 2019 polls. He even quit as Mumbai Congress president in the middle of the Lok Sabha campaign five years ago to focus on winning back the constituency.
Mr Deora had recently expressed displeasure over the Uddhav Thackeray faction, which is part of the Opposition alliance, laying claim to the Mumbai South seat. He wanted the seat to remain with the Congress, despite his losses to Mr Sawant in the last 2 elections.
After the switch, Mr Deora is reportedly optimistic of winning Mumbai South with a combined vote share from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena supporters. Sources suggest that if BJP successfully wins the seat, the leader might be offered a Rajya Sabha seat.
The leader’s connections with business leaders also seemed to have won him favour with the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. During his stint as a Union Minister, Mr Deora was a liberal voice on economic issues and had close ties within business and Delhi’s political circles.
The Mumbai South constituency, which has a healthy mix of Marathi and Muslim electorate, is also being eyed by BJP’s Rahul Narvekar and Mangal Prabhat Lodha.
The Congress, which is already in a tight position amid seat-sharing talks with its allies, has been hit hard by Mr Deora’s exit. With the general elections scheduled this year, the party has been trying to avoid embarrassing situations like Sachin Pilot’s rebellion in Rajasthan, a state which they lost in the recently held assembly elections.
The party claimed that the timing of the exit was orchestrated by the BJP to derail the ‘Bharat Nyay Yatra’ and that Milind Deora was “just a puppet”.
“He (Deora) said he is concerned that it is a sitting Shiv Sena seat, he wanted to meet Rahul Gandhi and explain to him about the seat and also wanted me to talk to Mr. Gandhi about it. Obviously all this was a farce and he had made up his mind to leave. The timing of the announcement of his departure was clearly determined by the PM,” Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said.