Maharashtra Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam on Friday said he would not be able to continue in the party for long if his voice was not heard, ANI reported. He alleged there was a conspiracy within the Congress to throw out people close to former party chief Rahul Gandhi.

Nirupam had on Thursday announced that he would not participate in the party’s campaign for Maharashtra Assembly elections. He had said that he had suggested only one candidate’s name for the elections, but even that was rejected. He had also said that the way the party leadership was behaving with him, the day to say goodbye to the Congress “doesn’t seem far away”.

At a press conference in Mumbai on Friday, Nirupam said: “I don’t think I want to leave the party but if things within the party continue to be like this, then I don’t think I can be in the party for long.”

Nirupam told PTI that he had suggested the candidate for Versova Assembly constituency, but the candidate finalised by the party, Baldev Khosa, was someone who “came third in the 2014 Assembly polls and has been inactive for the last five years”. “The BJP is so aggressive in its campaign and we need to pick candidates who can match their aggression,” he said.

However, unidentified Congress officials said Khosa was a three-time MLA and a long-time party loyalist.

Nirupam alleged that the party was no longer taking feedback from the grassroots level, and the party’s general secretary in charge of the state had been made “all powerful”. He said the leadership was sidelining him even though he was the Mumbai unit president for four years. “I have been given no role in the Assembly poll process,” he told PTI. “My views have not been considered during [Assembly] ticket distribution in my own Lok Sabha constituency.”

At his press conference, Nirupam said: “When Rahul Gandhi was leading the party, there were some people who sat inside AICC [All India Congress Committee] offices and hatched conspiracies against Rahul Gandhi to ensure that he fails,” Nirupam said. “And today those people are running the party. They are feeding wrong information to Congress president. As a result Congress is where it stands today.”

He said: “A conspiracy is taking place in Delhi where people who were working with Rahul [Gandhi] are being demeaned and thrown out of the party system. I am an example of this. You have seen it happen with [former Haryana Congress chief] Ashok Tanwar. Tripura Congress chief has same problem.”

The 54-year-old Congress leader added that there was a campaign against him. “In Mumbai, anti-party activities have increased...When a new general secretary was appointed, he ensured that there should be activities against me,” Nirupam said. “During Lok Sabha polls, I was stripped of the post of Mumbai Congress president. I did not say anything about this and accepted the decision as a loyal party worker.”

Former Union minister Milind Deora had replaced Nirupam as the Mumbai Congress chief in March this year, amid reports of infighting. Nirupam was appointed the party’s candidate for the Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency for the 2019 elections, but lost.

Congress responds

The Congress in response asked Nirupam to stop fuelling conspiracy theories. “Sanjay Nirupam would be well advised to restrain himself,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari said, according to PTI. “It would be appropriate if he does not kite fly these conspiracy theories that are unimaginative.”

In July, Nirupam had lashed out at Deora after an explosive letter written by actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar to Deora came to light. In the letter, dated May 16, Matondkar criticised the conduct of Nirupam’s associates Sandesh Kondvilkar and Bhushan Patil. The same month, Deora resigned from his post as Mumbai Congress chief.

Elections to the 288-seat legislature will be held on October 21, and the results will declared three days later. The BJP’s main ally is the Shiv Sena. The Republican Party of India (Athawale), the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, the Shiv Sangram Sanghatana and the Rayat Kranti Sena are the other members of the alliance.

In 2014, the BJP won 122 seats, and the Shiv Sena 63. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance is the main Opposition group.

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