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Dhanbad Cong divided over new face

The state Congress’s move to induct Niraj Singh, the deputy mayor of Dhanbad Municipal Corporation, into the fold has apparently divided the district unit into two segments.

Even though the party seeks to cash in on 30-year-old Niraj’s popularity and wide support base, state Congress executive committee member Santosh Singh and former district Youth Congress (rural) president Shamsher Alam, among others, have condemned the party leadership’s decision.

The Congress faction supporting Niraj organised a number of felicitation programmes in Putki and Dhanbad sadar on Sunday to welcome the young labour trade leader into the organisation.

On the other hard, the party’s disgruntled group called a meeting in Jharia on Monday and burnt an effigy of Niraj to mark their protest.

Niraj, however, appeared unperturbed by all the hullabaloo and justified his decision. “I always believed in secular values and I feel the Congress is the greatest votary of secularism in the country,” said Niraj.

Nephew of former state urban development minister Bachcha Singh, who also leads the trade union Janta Mazdoor Sangh, added that regional parties had lost their relevance. “Petty politics and regionalism drive regional parties,” he added.

Niraj took the plunge into electoral politics in 2009 when as an Independent, he contested the Assembly elections from Dhanbad constituency against Congress’s Mannan Mallick.

Having lost, he tried his luck in the Dhanbad municipal polls the next year and won by a record margin of over 73,000 votes to become the deputy mayor.

Youth Congress leader Shamsher Alam, who had contested the 2010 municipal election against Niraj, said, “People like Niraj join the party for personal gain and do not hesitate to leave if their interest is not served.”

Sources, however, said Alam and some other party leaders were feeling threatened by Niraj, who has much stronger support base than them.