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Sanjay Nirupam: Controversy's child

By Sanjay Jog
October 08, 2016 17:33 IST
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From attacking Pramod Mahajan and Smriti Irani and participating in Bigg Boss, Sanjay Nirupam has plunged into an ugly controversy with his latest remark.
Sanjay Jog reports.

A journalist-turned-politician and now Mumbai Regional Congress Committee president, Sanjay Nirupam courted controversy when he questioned the truth behind the surgical strikes across the Line of Control.

The Congress immediately disowned his statement and snubbed him saying the party fully trusts the army.

Nirupam was attacked on social media, and members of a civil society in Mumbai decided to boycott an event on a civic issue organised by the Mumbai unit of the Congress. But neither did he withdraw his statement nor tender an apology.

This is not the first time the 51-year-old politician has made headlines.

As the then executive editor of the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece, Dopahar Ka Saamna, and as the party's Rajya Sabha MP, he hogged the limelight through contentious statements. Though he was the blue-eyed boy of the late Bal Thackeray, he would not spare its ruling ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

In October 1998, he accused the BJP-led central government, especially Pramod Mahajan, of 'scuttling' the Tata airline project and held it responsible after the company dropped its plans to set up a domestic airline.

The same year in December, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after Nirupam called actor Dilip Kumar a 'Pakistani.' Despite the ruckus and a warning from the chair, he did not withdraw his remark. The Shiv Sena then was angry over Dilip Kumar's support to Deepa Mehta's film Fire.

Undeterred by Mahajan's clout and his proximity to Thackeray, Nirupam repeatedly targeted him. He finally quit the Shiv Sena in March 2005 owning to this long-standing rivalry and on the grounds that he was being sidelined in the party. He then joined the Congress.

Three years later, still struggling to settle down in the party, he entered the Bigg Boss reality TV, only to be shunted out soon.

In December 2012, as a Congress spokesman, he again stirred a hornet's nest by making a personal attack on actor-turned-politician Smriti Irani during a debate on a news channel after Narendra Modi's hat-trick in Gujarat.

His remarks drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum.

Nirupam lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election and was appointed president of the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee in 2015, two years ahead of the crucial election to the Shiv Sena-BJP-controlled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation slated for early 2017.

He became an obvious target of Congress loyalists and senior party leaders.

A few months after his appointment, he said there was a 'generational clash' within the Congress party. 'The established leadership is creating hurdles in the working of the new Pradesh Congress Committee presidents. An atmosphere of non-cooperation and opposition prevails in the organisation,' he said.

Then in January this year, the Congress high command sought an explanation from him over articles in the party journal, Congress Darshan, which slammed Jawaharlal Nehru and termed Sonia Gandhi's father a 'fascist soldier.'

The disciplinary action committee of the All India Congress Committee issued a show-cause notice to him. Sudhir Joshi, responsible for the journal's editorial content, was sacked and Nirupam forced to apologise.

The big challenge before Nirupam now is the BMC election, for which he will have to strive to bring all leaders together. Not many are confident that Nirupam, an 'outsider,' will succeed.

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