Why did Milind Deora end ties with the Congress? Will it hurt the party?

Why did Milind Deora end ties with the Congress? Will it hurt the party?

Why did Milind Deora end ties with the Congress? Will it hurt the party?

“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 unwavering support over the years.”

With these words, former MP and Union Minister Milind Deora quit the Congress on Sunday (14 January) and within hours joined the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. After joining the party in Shinde’s presence, Deora told reporters in Mumbai, “This is a very emotional day for me. I had never thought that I would quit Congress. Today, I joined Shiv Sena.”

The move came as Rahul Gandhi began his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from Manipur. Many poll pundits were quick to note that with this exit, the young dynasts — often called ‘Rahul’s Babalog’ — have left the party. Jitin Prasada, Jyotiraditya Scindia and RPN Singh have switched loyalties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Sachin Pilot’s the only one left, however, his ties with the party’s top brass is anything but smooth at the moment.

But why did Deora, who had a relationship with the Congress — his father, Murli Deora was also a Congressman — quit the party? And more importantly, how does his decision impact the Grand Old Party with the Lok Sabha as well as Maharashtra Assembly elections around the corner?

Milind Deora and the Congress

The 47-year-old Milind Deora has ties with the Congress that go back to his father, Murli Deora. In fact, senior Deora through his political acumen had earned the moniker of ‘kingmaker’ and had solidified south Mumbai as a Congress stronghold.

The industrialist-turned-politician was a close confidant of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and was a trusted aide of the Gandhis. He was also a four-time Lok Sabha MP and three-time Rajya Sabha MP. He also owns the honour of being the only petroleum minister to serve a full five-year term in two consecutive governments under prime minister Manmohan Singh.

When his son, Milind, joined politics, he too joined the Congress. Between 2011 and 2014, Milind Deora was the Union minister of state for communication and information technology and in 2012, he was given an additional responsibility as junior Union minister of shipping. He also held the South Mumbai constituency for two consecutive terms — 2004 and 2009. Later, he lost two successive Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019 to Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant.

Milind Deora was considered to be a close aide of Rahul Gandhi. In fact, he is the last of the ‘Rahul Babalog’ who quit the party in recent times. File image/PTI

Deora’s exit follows a string of young leaders leaving the Congress; Jyotiraditya Scindia resigned from the party and joined the BJP in 2020. In the following year, ex-UPA minister Jitin Prasada quit the Congress citing the party’s growing disconnect with the people.

Even former Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev quit for TMC while former union minister RPN Singh, former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill also joined the BJP.

Reasons for Deora’s exit

There is no one reason as to why Deora quit the party. In fact, it’s a combination of several reasons, some provided by him.

When he joined the Shinde-led Sena camp, he said, “When I came into politics 20 years ago, I was taught by my mentors that politics should be positive and development-oriented. The service of the people is the most important ideology.”

He also penned a letter citing the reasons for his exit, which he shared on social media platform X. In it, the former MP wrote, “The current state of the Congress no longer resonates with the party that my father Murlibhai and I joined in 1968 and 2004, respectively. It has deviated from its ideological and organizational roots, lacking appreciation for honesty and constructive criticism. The party that once initiated India’s economic liberalisation now targets business houses as ‘anti-national. It has strayed from celebrating India’s diverse culture and religions, fostering division based on caste, and creating a North-South divide. Failing not just to attain power but also to effectively serve as a constructive opposition at the Centre.”

He charged that the Congress was indulging in politics of PAIN — personal attacks, injustice and negativity. The 47-year-old further charged his former party of being toxic and suffocating. Speaking to NDTV, he said, “I found it suffocating, and toxic. It certainly isn't the Congress my father joined. They are not the same like they were 20 years.”

Congress leader and former Union minister Milind Deora on Sunday said he had resigned from the primary membership of the party. He charged that the Congress that he joined 20 years ago and today's Congress were very different. Today's Congress only indulged in politics of PAIN -- Personal Attacks, Injustice and Negativity. File image/PTI

He further added that today’s Congress had only one aim in mind — to oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The same party that used to offer constructive suggestions to this country, on how to take the country forward, has now just one goal — speak against whatever PM Modi says and does. Tomorrow, if he says that Congress is a very good party, they will oppose it. I believe in the politics of GAIN - Growth, Aspiration, Inclusivity and Nationalism. I don’t believe in the politics of PAIN — Personal Attacks, Injustice and Negativity,” he was quoted as saying.

But the Congress’ so-called transformation isn’t the only reason for Deora’s exit. Sources close to Deora were quoted as saying that his exit comes after a “very long and futile wait”. He was left in a sulk as he couldn’t get an assurance from the Congress that he would get to contest from the Mumbai South constituency in the upcoming elections. According to many insiders, the Shiv Sena (UBT) had laid claim to the seat and Congress was unable to provide Deora with any sort of assurance.

It is also reported that Deora was to join the BJP. However, as per a Times of India report, the party was not going to consider him for a Lok Sabha seat. “He decided to join Shiv Sena on Shinde’s assurance that he would be considered for nomination to Rajya Sabha in place of Sena (UBT)’s Anil Desai, whose term is nearing completion,” a senior Shiv Sena functionary told the Times of India.

Impact of Deora’s exit

The exit of Deora, even though the Congress says won’t hurt them, will affect the Congress significantly. Deora’s exit may prompt other corporators, MLAs and leaders of the party to switch sides. In fact, an Indian Express report has said that at least 10 former corporators of Mumbai and leaders of South Mumbai are believed to be set to follow him to the ruling party.

With Deora’s exit, the Congress has also lost its only viable candidate from the Mumbai South Lok Sabha seat. Deora was considered the only competition to Arvind Sawant, who currently holds the seat. This is a blow to the Congress ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Deora’s exit also hurts the party’s ability to negotiate seats with other parties in the INDIA bloc.

Milind Deora is a popular leader in Mumbai. He has links with corporates and business leaders. He also enjoys the support from Bollywood. File image/Reuters

Poll pundits have also stated that Deora’s exit has implications beyond just seats. He had connections across businesses and corporates and ensured that the party received funding from the, ahead of the polls. With his exit, there’s a fear that the corporates which supported Deora will now extend their financial aid to another party instead of the Congress.

With Deora’s exit, the Congress has also lost a prominent Gujarati face, who had acceptance in Mumbai.

Congress speaks

The Congress reacting to Deora’s resignation said it was determined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “headline management” to counter the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, and asserted that it would have no impact.

The city Congress unit termed Deora’s resignation as “unfortunate”. Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole called it a ploy by the BJP to divert the attention from the yatra and mocked Deora as a “twice defeated candidate”.

Former chief minister Ashok Chavan said Deora wanted to contest from the Mumbai South constituency but the (Maha Vikas Aghadi) alliance’s understanding is that the sitting MP must not be disturbed.

With inputs from agencies