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Last Updated : May 06, 2019 12:19 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Know Your Leader | Milind Deora: A freeman, an Indian, an MP and a Congressman — in his words, in that order

The former Union minister of IT and communications considers himself well-versed with latest social media trends. He has also spoken out for 'regulation' of content on social media

Milind Deora recently replaced a bickering Sanjay Nirupam to become the chief of Mumbai Congress. The responsibility, for the 43-year-old, has suddenly increased.

From taking care of his own campaigning for the South Mumbai seat to keeping an eye on the Congress' campaign across the city, the pressure on Deora is immense. Particularly since he lost the seat to Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant in 2014.

The Deoras, between Milind and his father Murli, have held the seat for five terms. Deora Sr. held it from 1984 to 1991 and then in 1998. Milind was an MP from the seat from 2004 to 2014.


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The Freeman 

Deora has often repeated, in columns and interviews, that his philosophy is based on former US President Lyndon Johnson — "I am a freeman, an American, a United States senator and a Democrat, in that order".

That, Deora has said, is also how he sees himself: a freeman, an Indian, an MP and then a Congressman.

The guitar enthusiast wears his freeman philosophy on his sleeve. Deora has been an outspoken member of the Congress but has also expressed ire against his own party.

In 2014, for instance, he spoke out against an ordinance allowing an MP to continue in his office if he has appealed against a conviction. The ordinance was passed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. A day after Deora's comments, Rahul Gandhi had said the ordinance should be "torn" and "thrown away".

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The Gandhi connection

Reports have suggested that the closeness of Deora family to the Gandhis allows Milind to voice his opinions freely.

Deora's father, the former treasurer of the party, has worked with Indira, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi, and has cemented a close relationship with the family. Deora carried it forward and shares a good rapport with Rahul.

However, in an interview with journalist Priya Sahgal for her book The Contenders, Deora had said his is not the politics of proximity.

"I like to be judged on (the basis of) whether I am capable, do I have good ideas, am I trustworthy and ultimately am I reliable..." Deora had said.

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Man with ideas 

What, then, are Deora's ideas? The former Union minister of IT and communications considers himself well-versed with latest social media trends. He has also spoken out for 'regulation' of content on social media.

As a first-time MP, Deora had led the debate on Right to Information (RTI) Bill in Lower House in 2005. He had been interested in the subject of access to information for common citizens even before he became an MP.

Deora worked for an NGO called SPARSH before entering politics. The NGO worked to ensure digital literacy to "fund-starved" government-aided schools.

As a minister in the central government, Deora had also introduced a policy aimed at reducing telecom tower emissions, in turn aimed at reducing health risks.

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Challenges ahead

The South Mumbai seat is a mix between Mazgaon and Girgaon's working-class housing colonies to Malabar Hill and Worli's elite, upper-middle-class towers. In a sense, it represents the contrasting picture of Mumbai.

Thus, it is an important seat. Many of Congress' treasurers have been MPs from South Mumbai. That, coupled with the pressure of retaining family legacy, means that Deora has a tough challenge ahead of him.

Moreover, Mumbai Congress is a faction-ridden unit. To keep the cadre and party leaders together as they navigate the complexities of an election, will be a task that will test Deora.
First Published on Apr 8, 2019 08:20 pm