Mumbai | In a setback for Congress in Mumbai ahead of Lok Sabha polls, its young brigade member and former Union minister Milind Deora on Sunday quit the party "to walk the development path" and joined the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, saying the Congress' old character is changed.
Deora, 47, said he believed in the politics of "GAIN" which stands for Growth, Aspiration, Inclusivity and Nationalism and not of "PAIN" which he explained as an acronym for Personal Attacks, Injustice and Negativity.
His decision marks the unease in Shiv Sena (UBT)-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) over the sharing of seats for the upcoming general elections.
Taking a veiled dig at Rahul Gandhi after joining Sena, Deora alleged the Congress was not the same as it used to be when Manmohan Singh had launched economic reforms, but it is now abusing industrialists and businessmen, and calling them anti-nationals.
He was welcomed in the Shiv Sena fold by CM Shinde at his official residence Varsha late afternoon.
The former Mumbai South MP announced his decision to resign from the primary membership of Congress on social media platform X in the morning, ending his family's "55-year relationship with the party".
Days preceding his resignation, speculations were rife that Deora was unhappy with Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) staking a claim to the Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency which he had represented in the past even though formal seat-sharing talks in MVA are not concluded.
The MVA includes Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress, and the NCP (Sharad Pawar faction).
"Today marks the conclusion of a significant chapter in my political journey. I have tendered my resignation from the primary membership of the Congress, ending my family's 55-year relationship with the party. I am grateful to all leaders, colleagues and karyakartas for their unwavering support over the years," Deora stated on X.
Reacting sharply, the Congress alleged the timing of Deora's resignation 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.
Deora offered prayers at Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi after announcing his decision earlier in the day.
When he stepped out of his residence 'Ramalayam' in south Mumbai in the afternoon, he told reporters that he was "going to walk on the path of development".
Deora is in the sulk since Shiv Sena (UBT) publicly staked a claim to Mumbai South constituency, which was represented by him in the past.
The undivided Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant, now with the Thackeray faction, had defeated Deora in the 2014 and 2019 general elections.
Notably, Deora was recently appointed the joint treasurer of the All India Congress Committee. He had also headed the Mumbai Congress unit in the past.
Deora's father Murli Deora had represented the Mumbai South constituency four times.
Milind Deora first became a Lok Sabha member from this constituency in 2004 by defeating BJP veteran Jayawantiben Mehta. He returned to Lok Sabha in 2009 again, trouncing candidates of MNS and Shiv Sena (undivided).
The Mumbai South constituency comprises six assembly segments including upscale areas like Colaba and Malabar Hill, with a significant population of Marwari, Jain, and Gujarati communities.
Addressing a gathering at the official residence of CM Shinde late afternoon, Deora said PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have a vision for developing the country. He also hailed Shinde as the "most accessible" chief minister.
"It is not easy to decide to quit Congress with whom the Deora family has been associated for 55 years. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde requires good people. It is the opinion of Shinde and Lok Sabha member Shrikant Shinde that I can represent his vision and I am thankful to them for trusting me."
"I want to tell one thing, I was loyal to Congress when it was going through a difficult phase. I joined Congress in 2004. If Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) had focused on the constructive suggestions and merit, we would not be sitting here," he said pointing at Shinde, whose rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray split Shiv Sena in June 2022.
The former Union minister further said, "When Manmohan Singh was the finance minister 30 years ago, the Congress party ushered in economic reforms, but now it is abusing industrialists and businessmen, and calling them anti-nationals".
Welcoming Deora into the Shiv Sena fold, Shinde said they would work together to help people.
"We need to strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the chief minister added.
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 (MVA) alliance's understanding is that the sitting MP must not be disturbed.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut, however, said there would be no compromise on the Mumbai South Lok Sabha seat.
In a swipe at BJP, NCP (Sharad Pawar faction) MP Supriya Sule asked if the saffron party had no talent of its own.