Amid reports of infighting, rebellion, dwindling popularity and allegations of one-upmanship against its city chief Sanjay Nirupam, the Congress has managed to put up a list of competitive candidates for the February 21 BMC elections.
As it lost several corporators to other parties, the Congress too was successful in its poaching attempts. It persuaded a few sitting corporators from Samajwadi Party to jump the ship. The Congress is the only party along with Shiv Sena to field candidates on all 227 seats.
SP corporator Ashraf Azmi joined the Congress on Friday and filed his nomination from ward No 165 in Kurla. He was followed by his wife Dilshad and brother Arshad Azmi. The party nominated Dilshad from ward No 167. In Colaba, BJP leader Janak Sanghavi, a prominent Gujarati face of the party joined the Congress and filed his nomination from ward no 221. Sanghavi was upset at the BJP giving the ticket to Akash Purohit, son on BJP legislator Raj Purohit.
Congress corporator Parminder Bhamra (Malad) switched to BJP last week. In just seven days Bhamra rejoined Congress, claiming that he felt ‘suffocated’ in the saffron party.
Party sources said Sanjay Nirupam, who enjoys the backing of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, stood firm with his decision to not entertain recommendations from several leaders and instead went for consensus candidates.
While senior corporators and leaders like Devendra Amberkar, Waqarunnisa Ansari and Nizamuddin Rayeen have joined rival parties, accusing Nirupam of nepotism, a senior Congress leader said Nirupam had given tickets to candidates from all camps and that almost all of them have some electoral merit.
Legislator Aslam Shaikh who played a key role in poaching candidates from other parties said they chose candidates who can win. “Those who quit the party must realise that the BJP or the Shiv Sena will only use them and then dump them. They must not switch the party only for a ticket because people will not vote for defectors.”
The party has given tickets to 112 Marathi-speaking candidates, 35 north Indians, 38 Muslims and 22 members from Gujarati and Marwari communities. By upping the number of north Indian candidates, the party has also tried to give a tough time to the BJP which has been trying hard to woo the community. The list also includes 30 former corporators.