Milind Deora (47), a former Member of Parliament from the Congress, who just on Saturday dismissed reports of defecting to the Shiv Sena (Shinde) as "rumours," officially resigned from the Congress on Sunday. With folded hands, he joined Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's party, basing his decision on Shinde's solemn assurance of securing a Rajya Sabha seat.
A beaming Shinde welcomed Deora and hoped that the ex-Union minister would strengthen the Shiv Sena. City Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad urged Deora to reconsider his decision in view of his family's 50-year-old connection with the Congress. Milind is one of the two sons of the late Congress leader Murli Deora, who lorded over the city Congress for several decades. Milind's brother Mukund is a totally private person who had assiduously stayed away from politics.
Sources in the Congress blamed Rahul Gandhi for Milind Deora's decision to defect. Deora was defeated for the second time in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 from the Mumbai South constituency. Both in 2014 and 2019, he was trounced by trade union leader Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena. Sawant is a part of the inner circle of Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Deora was upset over not being nominated to RS: Party sources
Deora, who was in the core group led by Rahul Gandhi, was expecting that he would be fielded by the Congress during the May 2022 election to the Rajya Sabha. However, he was stunned when Rahul Gandhi handpicked Imran Pratapgarhi, a poet from Uttar Pradesh, and fielded him from Maharashtra for the Rajya Sabha. Pratapgarhi (38) was thrashed in the LS election from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh in 2019. "Yet Rahul forced the MPCC to accommodate him in the Rajya Sabha. For two years, Milind put up with the humiliation. But now, when it was clear that the Congress, which is an ally of the Shiv Sena (UBT), will not give him the ticket to contest the 2024 Lok Sabha election from South Mumbai, he decided to quit the party. He approached the BJP, but he was cold-shouldered. Hence, he joined the Shiv Sena (Shinde) after he was promised a seat in the Rajya Sabha," a senior Congress leader told the FPJ on condition of anonymity.
The city Congress is assessing the damage Deora's defection will cause to the organization. However, it is felt that the impact would be confined only to South Mumbai, which elected him twice to the LS. However, Deora is well-networked with India Inc and is expected to utilize his connections to help CM Shinde in raising resources for the Shiv Sena (Shinde).
The Congress rank and file suspect that Deora decided to quit the party on Sunday deliberately to embarrass Rahul Gandhi, who embarked on his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from Manipur on the same day.
Discussion in the media and political circles regarding Deora joining the Shiv Sena came to an end after Deora himself confirmed through Twitter.
"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," Deora wrote on X.
Before joining the Shiv Sena, he offered prayers at Siddhivinayak temple along with his wife Pooja. He was escorted by MLA Sada Sarvankar, who is the chairman of the temple trust. Later, he visited the statue of the late Shivsena Supremo Bal Thackeray near Regal cinema circles and offered flowers.
He joined Eknath Shinde's party along with 10 former corporators of Congress and office bearers of several front organizations of the Congress.
Congress leadership targets businessmen: Deora
He expressed, "I never thought I would leave the Congress. It was a very difficult decision. I am breaking my family's 55 years of relationship with the Congress."
While critiquing the Congress leadership, Deora remarked, "My father joined Congress in 1968, and I joined in 2004. There is a huge difference in the thinking of Congress leadership then and now. In the '90s, when the Indian economy was in trouble, Manmohan Singh ji, with the help of businessmen, took the country ahead, but the current leadership is insulting the business community."
He added, "Today's Congress leadership only criticizes PM Modi."
Furthermore, Deora stated, "I want to strengthen the hands of PM Modi and Eknath Shinde for the development of the country and state."
Mahayuti allies welcome Deora
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde stated that Milind Deora joining the Shiv Sena (Shinde) is just the trailer, and the main film is yet to come. This remark gains significance in light of reports suggesting that the Mahayuti, comprising the BJP, Shiv Sena (Shinde), and NCP (Ajit Pawar), is planning to orchestrate a split in the Congress well before the LS elections. It is understood that feelers have already been sent to various Congress MLAs and leaders, accompanied by enticing offers.
Senior NCP (Ajit Pawar) leader and former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel tweeted in support of Milind Deora, stating, "Well done Shri Milind Deora. Let us work together to support the vision of our honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji. Best wishes for your successful new innings ahead."