The Gandhi-Deora Ties And How Milind Deora’s Exit Impacts Congress

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Murli Deora’s influence extended beyond political circles.

New Delhi:

The late Murli Deora, although not a great public speaker, carved his niche through astute political maneuvering, forging friendships across party lines and earning the moniker of a ‘kingmaker’ who once solidified South Mumbai as a Congress stronghold.

Today, 10 years after his death, his 47-year-old son Milind resigned from the Congress, ending his family’s 55-year ties with the party.

As the Deoras end their journey with the Congress, here’s a look back at their relationship with the Gandhi family and how Milind’s resignation impacts the Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency, which was once a Congress fortress. 

The Gandhi-Deora Ties

Murli Deora’s influence extended beyond political circles to include the top leaders of the business world, where his camaraderie with prominent figures like Dhirubhai Ambani and unwavering loyalty to the Gandhi family became defining facets of his political persona. This intricate web of relationships came to light at his funeral, attended by luminaries spanning political and corporate realms.

In addition to being the president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee for an impressive 22-year stint, Murli Deora was also a four-time Lok Sabha MP and three-time Rajya Sabha MP. He also stands singular as the only petroleum minister to serve a full five-year term in two consecutive governments under prime minister Manmohan Singh.

In 1968, a payment of 25 paise secured his position as a primary member of the Congress, a party to which he remained steadfastly loyal throughout his career. His early foray into municipal politics marked the beginning of a journey that would see him serve as Mumbai’s mayor and eventually shape the political landscape of South Mumbai.

In the 1970s, when Congress faced setbacks both at the national and state levels, Mr Deora emerged as a key figure. A split engineered by Sharad Pawar, leading to the formation of the Progressive Democratic Front with the Janata Party, marked a challenging period for Congress. Despite having no aspirations for ministerial roles, Murli Deora assumed the role of president of the Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee, a position he held for over two decades. 

The Congress veteran was also a close confidant of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. 

Tasked with the role of a bridge between the Congress and the city’s corporate elite, he facilitated the smooth flow of funds to the party. His relationships with industrial magnates like the Birlas and Dhirubhai Ambani played a crucial role in sustaining the party’s financial machinery.

Whenever Sonia Gandhi visited Mumbai, Murli Deora organised lunches at the Cricket Club of India, an event that drew journalists and prominent personalities alike.

In the 21st century, the baton of South Mumbai’s representation was passed on to his son, Milind, as the senior Deora continued to exert influence behind the scenes.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s today described Murli Deora as a stalwart Congressman who stood by the party through thick and thin. 

Milind Deora’s Exit, And Its Impact

As tributes flowed, the departure of Milind Deora from the Congress has raised questions on how the move could affect the party.

The Congress, a member of the opposition INDIA bloc, is already in a tight position, discussing seat-sharing plans with multiple parties across states, be it with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal or the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab.

With the general elections scheduled this year, the party walks on a tightrope, trying to avoid embarrassing situations like Sachin Pilot’s rebellion in Rajasthan, a state which they lost in the recently held assembly elections.  

Reacting to the news of Milind Deora’s exit, the Congress has claimed that the announcement of his resignation, just before the start of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra – a mega Congress outreach rally – was determined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Milind Deora is expected to join the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction. This decision adds to a growing list of prominent Congress leaders who have chosen to part ways with the party in recent years. Leaders like Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, are among many who have quit the party.

The Mumbai South seat is currently held by Uddhav Thackeray-faction Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant. consequences for both the party and the political dynamics in South Mumbai. 

Milind Deora has played a significant role in shaping the Congress’s strategy in the region. His exit weakens the Congress’s position, leaving a void that might be challenging to fill in the upcoming elections. 

The Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction not only gains an experienced politician but also a potential winner with a proven track record in the constituency in a crucial poll year.

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