A May 16 letter by Bollywood actress-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar, now allegedly leaked to the media, has exposed a simmering feud in the faction-ridden Mumbai Congress and led to its top leaders attacking each other publicly here on Tuesday.
“After making a multilingual appeal to the workers not to quarrel against each other, the ‘young dynast’ has planted this news to ‘stabilise’ the party. The letter was written to him on May 16 and is leaked to media yesterday (Monday). Has he learned all this from his ‘mentor’ (Arun) Jaitley?” former Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam said in a sarcastic tweet, ostensibly directed at party colleague Milind Deora
Deora’s reaction was characteristically cool as he sought to downplay the issue, saying “the Congress Party has seen many upheavals and shall overcome this one too”.
“Some unpleasant and unwarranted commentary from certain quarters should be ignored and not countered,” urged Deora, who abruptly quit as Mumbai party unit chief on Sunday, barely four months after his appointment to the prestigious post.
Trapped in the sudden cross-fire over her “leaked” letter between city stalwarts, Matondkar, who had unsuccessfully contested as Congress candidate from Mumbai North in the recent Lok Sabha polls, on Tuesday said that “its extremely unfortunate that a confidential letter containing privileged communication should be made public”.
“I have addressed the letter at the behest of the Mumbai (Congress) President with the sole intention to bring about betterment in the party. It is extremely significant to note and I wish to highlight that this letter was written way before the elections results or even the exit pollsa showing only my integrity, sincerity and commitment to party interest,” she said in the statement.
In her letter, the actress had reportedly pointed fingers at two of Nirupam’s aides Sandesh Kondvilkar and Bhushan Patil, accusing them of “total lack of coordination, honesty and efficiency, ensuring a disastrous outcome” in the elections.
She charged Kondvilkar of calling up her family demanding money for the campaign, advising them to ask Congress Treasurer Ahmed Patel for funds, besides the party failing to mobilise grassroots workers, lack of local level coordination and not providing her resources for canvassing.
Seeking disciplinary action against the Patil-Kondvilkar duo, Matondkar also appealed for organizational level changes to improve the party’s prospects in future elections.
A senior party leader, not wishing to be identified, said it was “strange” that the letter should “leak out” immediately after Deora’s resignation and his recommendation for a 3-member panel for the Mumbai Congress, which has been criticized by many, including Nirupam.
The Mumbai Congress has been ridden with factionalism since nearly four decades, even during the tenures of two former Union Ministers – Gurudas Kamat and Murli Deora – besides the so-called north-Indian lobby versus the others.
For this, insiders claim, the party paid a heavy price in the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation elections, the assembly and parliament seats in the city.
For instance, in a double whammy, in 2014 and 2019, the Congress lost all the six Lok Sabha seats to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine.