Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Milind Deora and Mumbai’s Yin and Yang | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Milind Deora and Mumbai’s Yin and Yang

ByMalavika Sangghvi
Mar 03, 2024 07:02 AM IST

This robust jumping of ship by individual Congressmen, was nothing compared to the upheavals and convulsions experienced by the parties they had jumped to themselves

Last month a minor political explosion stopped Mumbai in its tracks, when former Congress Union minister and MP from south Mumbai Milind Deora, resigned from the party with which his family had enjoyed close ties for over five decades and joined the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena, declaring that the Congress was ‘no longer what it used to be’.

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Milind Deora and Mumbai’s Yin and Yang
Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Milind Deora and Mumbai’s Yin and Yang

Now, in the shifting tectonics of the current political landscape, a politician crossing over to the other side, should not have been a big deal and God knows, since 2019, the Congress has witnessed a massive haemorrhaging of senior leaders.

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From heavyweights like Kapil Sibal, Amarinder Singh, and Ghulam Nabi Azad, to what were perceived as Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle of urban cowboys, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jiten Prasad and RPN Singh- they’d all sought greener pastures and more promising futures elsewhere.

Indeed, Deora’s had not even been the only crossover by a high profile Mumbai Congressman either; around the same time that his announcement had created headlines, his colleague, former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan had joined the rival BJP and shortly after, the three-time MLA from Bandra, Congressman Baba Siddique had thrown in his lot with Ajit Pawar’s NCP.

What’s more, this robust jumping of ship by individual Congressmen, was nothing compared to the upheavals and convulsions experienced by the parties they had jumped to themselves. After all, the Sena that Deora had joined, far from being the traditional Bal Thakeray led family-run party, had been borne out of a conflagration that had held the nation in its thrall in June 2022, when Sena leader Eknath Shinde, had led a majority of MLAs in a revolt against CM Udhav Thakeray, forcing him to resign and breaking the MVA coalition as a consequence.

Similarly, the Ajit Pawar- led NCP, that Siddiqui and Chavan were now seeking refuge in, had also been born out of intense stress and turmoil, following the rupture between him and his uncle Sharad Pawar.

***

In this bizarre scenario of sudden breakups and shocking new alliances, forged between old colleagues and sworn enemies, where everywhere there seemed to be slippery, sliding, hitherto unimaginable ideological turns and twists, you might ask why Deora’s crossing over to the Shiv Sena would create such a buzz.

For this, you have to consider who he is and what he stands for: not only did the former union minister and two- time MP from Mumbai’s prestigious south constituency, boast of a distinguished career as one of the best performing parliamentarians of his time, but he was regarded as the quintessential new age leader: an urbane, global, ideas man, with a deep knowledge of business, technology, the environment and well established connections to international and Indian industry, media and the intelligentsia.

To be sure, Deora, had been regarded as one of the most promising faces in the Congress, boasting an unblemished record and championing such causes as the path breaking RTI Bill, whose debate he had initiated in Parliament, along with infra projects, space exploration and digital literacy.

In addition, his father Murli Deora, had been one of the Congress’ most enduring loyalists, enjoying close links not only with Rajiv and Sonia, but with their mother, Indira Gandhi too.

Why on earth would such a person leave the Congress and what was he doing as a member of the Shiv Sena?

***

A visit to Milind’s office at Churchgate’s Khetan Bhavan would answer that question.

One of the oldest structures in the heart of the busy Churchgate district, this mid-size, art-deco block, had once been the office of his late father Murli, when he’d been the all-powerful President of the Mumbai Congress and it was believed that a visit to this was office was de rigueur for anyone interested in understanding how the city worked. I first came here in 1979, as a rookie journalist.

With its wall- to -wall Hussain canvasses, low decibel buzz of power, endless cups of tea served in dainty porcelain cups and constant stream of visitors seeking redressal, it had been the hub of an old style, graceful politics, from where the senior Deora had endeared himself to the hearts and minds of Mumbaikers. You would meet the richest industrialists, the most celebrated intellects and city fathers to the most ordinary Mumbaikers at Murli’s office.

This time around when I meet his son Milind, I find a whole new vibe to the place. Like the city around it, there is a sense of urgency, of breakneck construction, of work to be done, projects to be finished and deadlines to be met. Over a cup of espresso ordered online, the talk is all about growth and development, progress and projects close to Milind’s heart. Over the next hour he tells me about the building of the MTHL Bridge which he’d advocated 20 years ago; of the MBPT redevelopment project that would free up parcels of valuable real estate for the city; of improving India’s Urban Governance by empowering city Mayors; of speeding up e-governance for better service delivery; of reducing radiation by cell phone towers and ways to enhance tourism and industry.

***

It is said that along with some of the best and the brightest in his party, Milind had been a victim of the wilful capriciousness, delusional entitlement, disconnect with reality and dependence on yes-men, of the Congress’ presiding family. But though the disappointment and hurt are there for anyone to see in his eyes, he does not allude to it and even his newly -circulated CV eludes all mention of his former party.

This time around, Milind seems determined and resolved to start afresh. His new innings with the Sena, under the leadership of CM Eknath Shinde who he says is as impassioned and in as much of a hurry to develop, empower and champion the development of Mumbai, seems to have given him the impetus to forge a new path. The idea is to make Mumbai one of the premier cities in the world, he tells me.

“Forget legacy issues of the past; the mood is that there is work to be done, to deliver a glorious future for India, Mumbai and its people. “he says” And I am excited and ready to give it my all.”

And there is every hope that with what this blues guitar -playing, son of a bridge champion mother and product of Cathedral school -Sydenham College and Boston University brings to the table, namely his understanding and representation of an important part of Mumbai- its intelligentsia, youth and financial muscle, his joining forces with Shinde’s man of the masses, egalitarian, development -for- all -vision, could finally be a win -win, for both sides of Mumbai’s celebrated yin and yang coin.

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