“I met Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) about 10 days ago and expressed a desire to resign. For several months now, I have felt I need to take a backseat to enable others to get the opportunity,” Kamat said in a statement in Mumbai late this evening.
Party sources in New Delhi however said his resignation had not been accepted and efforts would be made to persuade him to withdraw it.
Kamat’s resignation came on a day another senior Congress leader Ajit Jogi, who is a former Chhattisgarh chief minister, announced that he was forming his own party.
The Congress has seen some of its senior leaders quitting the party over the past about a year, following a a series of electoral setbacks the party suffered after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Former Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who joined the BJP, was seen to be instrumental in its victory in Assam assembly polls. Former Uttarkhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who was involved in a revolt against his successor Harish Rawat also left the Congress to join the BJP.
Kamat’s resignation came amid strong demands in the party for an organisational revamp.
He said besides meeting Sonia Gandhi, he wrote to her and vice president Rahul Gandhi expressing his desire to quit.
“Since there was no reply, I have formally informed that I would like to retire from politics,” said Kamat, who lost the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 to BJP’s Kirit Somaiya.
Currently general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan, Kamat – who enjoys enormous support base among the south Indians in Mumbai – has declared he will not enter the electoral fray for either the Congress or any other party.
His abrupt decision to quit could demoralize the state party unit which is already grappling under various crises in the past couple of years since its rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
A lawyer by qualification, the 61-year-old Kamat has represented Mumbai North East Lok Sabha seat five times – 1984, 1991, 1998, 2004, 2009 – and served as Minister of Communications and IT in the Manmohan Singh government.
A former Mumbai Congress president for two terms, he has a deep knowledge of the city politics and his absence could prove detrimental for the party which is hoping to capture next year’s critical elections to BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation.
Starting his political career as a student leader, he rose on to become the president of National Students Union of India, of the Maharashtra Pradesh Youth Congress, the Indian Youth Congress, as well as the vice president of the party’s Maharashtra unit, besides serving in the union cabinet.
He had shot into headlines in July 2011 when he suddenly quit the cabinet, but took pains to cite “personal reasons” for his decision.