Sanjay Nirupam faces disciplinary action for slamming Congress for conceding key seat to Shiv Sena (UBT)

Mumbai: The Congress has initiated disciplinary proceedings against its Mumbai-based leader Sanjay Nirupam, after the former MP slammed his party for conceding the coveted Mumbai North West Lok Sabha seat to rival-turned-ally Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).

Nirupam had also levelled graft allegations against the Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate in contention — Amol Kirtikar, saying that the Congress decision to concede the seat is almost like “writing its own obituary”. 

Since 2019, the Shiv Sena (UBT), along with the Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) faction, has been an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) bloc.

State Congress President Nana Patole said the Maharashtra Congress has sent a proposal to the party leadership for disciplinary proceedings against Nirupam. 

At a press conference in Mumbai, Patole said Wednesday, “Sanjay Nirupam’s name was in the list of star campaigners (in Maharashtra). We got his name removed. He has been talking as if he has taken a supari (contract) from someone. We have initiated disciplinary proceedings against him, and there will be a decision by the end of the day.”

Nirupam, on his part, had hinted at parting ways with the Congress, adding that he would wait a week for the party to reverse its decision. “All options are open for me. Whatever happens now, it will be ‘aar ya paar (either this way or that)’,” Nirupam said at a press conference last week.  

After the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him, Nirupam said on social media platform X that the one-week period would be over on Wednesday, and he would decide what to do by Thursday. 

“Congress should not waste much energy and stationary on me. Instead, use your remaining energy and stationary to save the party,” the leader said in the X post.

Formerly a Bal Thackeray loyalist, Nirupam joined the Congress in 2005. During his nearly two-decade-long stint with the Congress, Nirupam has often clashed with the party’s leaders.

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Tussle with Shiv Sena (UBT)

A former Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MP, Nirupam had unsuccessfully contested the Mumbai North West seat in the 2019 state election. Gajanan Kirtikar from the undivided Shiv Sena had won the seat. Kirtikar, however, joined the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena after the vertical split in the party.

Nirupam, who started his political career with the undivided Shiv Sena and later fell out with the party, first criticised the Shiv Sena (UBT) over the Mumbai North West seat early last month. Uddhav Thackeray had declared Gajanan’s son Amol the party’s candidate from the constituency in a public rally even as seat-sharing talks within the MVA were underway.

Nirupam questioned if that was a violation of the alliance dharma or simply an attempt to cast his party, the Congress, in a poor light. He asked his party’s leadership to intervene in the matter. 

At the same time, he also raised the issue that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been probing Amol Kirtikar in the “khichdi scam” in the Mumbai civic body. The ED has been probing alleged money laundering in contracts for distribution of khichdi to migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its first list of 17 candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the Shiv Sena (UBT) officially named Amol Kirtikar as its candidate for Mumbai North West. Besides, it named candidates for three more Mumbai seats. 

Mumbai has a total of six parliamentary seats. The Congress had lost all six in 2014 and 2019. 

After the Shiv Sena (UBT) named its candidates for four of the six seats, Nirupam alleged the party intended to wipe out the Congress, suggesting friendly fights in disputed constituencies.

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Conflicts within Congress

Nirupam was courting conflicts with Congress leaders also in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He was the Mumbai Congress chief then, and a section of city-based Congress leaders were pressing for his ouster, complaining of his working style.

Nirupam, who represented the Mumbai North constituency from 2009 to 2014 till he lost the parliamentary election from the same seat, wanted to contest from the Mumbai North West constituency in 2019. 

The Mumbai North West constituency belonged to Gurudas Kamat, who passed away in 2018. There were many aspirants for Kamat’s old seat in 2019, and several party leaders thought Nirupam should stick to his old seat of Mumbai North.

Just before the 2019 elections, the party replaced Nirupam with former MP Milind Deora as Mumbai Congress chief and gave Nirupam the seat he wanted and later lost. 

Deora is now a Rajya Sabha MP with the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

Nirupam was appointed Mumbai Congress president in 2015, soon after the Congress had faced its worst-ever defeat in Maharashtra. The leader’s quest to revive the party was lonely, with him often complaining that senior leaders did not turn up for party events, meetings and programmes he organised. Congress old-timers saw Nirupam, an export from the undivided Shiv Sena, as an outsider.

Once Bal Thackeray’s blue-eyed boy

Originally from Bihar, Nirupam grew within the undivided Shiv Sena as the party’s North Indian face in Mumbai. He was also considered party supremo Bal Thackeray’s blue-eyed boy.

Nirupam was a Shiv Sena MP in the Rajya Sabha and the editor of Dopahar ka Saamana, the Shiv Sena’s Hindi mouthpiece. 

He, however, often courted controversies by criticising leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena’s ally at the time. 

Eventually, he left the Shiv Sena following some differences with the party’s leadership and joined the Congress.

(Edited by Madhurita Goswami)

Also read: BJP’s friend in 2014, foe in 2019, potential ally in 2024 — the many flip flops of Raj Thackeray



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