New Delhi–The Congress on Tuesday appointed actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar as the party chief in election-bound Uttar Pradesh.
“Congress President Sonia Gandhi has appointed Raj Babbar as new Uttar Pradesh Congress Chief,” announced Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi here at a press conference.
Raj Babbar will replace Nirmal Khatri, who has now been appointed chairperson of the Screening Committee.
Meanwhile, Imran Masood, Rajaram Pal and Rajesh Mishra and Bhagwati Prasad Chaudhary have been appointed Vice Presidents of the Uttar Pradesh Congress committee.
Imran Masood is the son of senior Congress leader Rashid Masood. Imran is a controversial Muslim leader who had threatened to chop into pieces Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary elections.
Congress General Secretary in-charge Uttar Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was also present at the briefing, refused to announce the party’s chief ministerial face in Uttar Pradesh.
Raj Babbar, a three-term Lok Sabha MP, is currently a Rajya Sabha member from Uttarakhand. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1994. He is also spokesperson of the party.
Born on June 23, 1952, Raj Babbar acted in more than 150 films and 30 plays. He received the ‘Yash Bharti’ honour from the Uttar Pradesh government.
Bravado and public posturing notwithstanding, none of the major political players seems to be battle ready for the assembly elections slated for early 2017 in the politically crucial state.
With just a few months left for these parties to put their best foot forward and wow the voters in Uttar Pradesh, they seem to be too embroiled in their own internal affairs.
The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), which has on more than two occasions said it is ready for the polls, is besieged with problems within the family. While the “chacha-bhatija” (uncle-nephew) differences between PWD minister Shivpal Singh Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav are now part of the political folklore, the candour of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in publicly admitting that party leaders and ministers in the government were busy “looting the people, land grabbing and in filling their pockets” has given enough political ammunition to the opposition.
The recent suspension of many party leaders on charges of land grabbing and police complaints against leaders for beating up policemen and revenue officials have only dented the ruling party further. Senior journalist and political observer Rajiv Ranjan Jha says the “rule of the Samajwadi’s is as good as over and its prospects of returning to power in 2017 are bleak”.
Sources in the ruling establishment too admit that “all is not well within”.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), seen by many here as the natural challenger to the SP as the state has been swinging between these two regional parties in the last decade, is flooded with desertions, something which has shaken the very foundations of the party, which stormed to power in 2007, only to be booted out in 2012.
Having done well in the recent polls to local bodies and panchayats, the BSP, many felt, was “recovering lost ground and inching close to power”. Developments in the last one month, however, have undone the BSP’s “first movers advantage” in the states political arena.
Three major party leaders, other than some middle-rung party office-bearers and former legislators, have quit the BSP accusing its chief, Mayawati, of running it as her private property and of being driven by greed for money. Close confidante Swamy Prasad Maurya, who quit the BSP in June, was followed by another stalwart, R.K. Chowdhary. Only recently, national secretary Paramdev Yadav quit to end an over three-decade association. All of them accused Mayawati, a former state chief minister, of digressing from the Dalit agenda of party founder Kanshi Ram.
From calling the BSP a chit fund company to a grocery store, the allegations by these leaders, who belong to important castes in the state, have certainly confused the BSP cadres.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is taking a shot at power after almost a decade of being relegated to the third position in what used to be its power centre, too comes across as a disorganised entity.
While party president Amit Shah is touring the state like never before — he has held more than a dozen party conventions and public rallies in a span of 30 days — the fact that the state unit’s organisational setup, under its new president Keshav Maurya, is yet to be announced speaks volumes of the disarray the BJP finds itself in.
For more than two months, the announcement of the state leadership has been stuck in striking caste balances and other issues. “There are problems within but we are in the process of setting things right”, a senior party legislator told IANS, not wishing to be named.
With 16 ministers from the state in the Narendra Modi cabinet at the centre and 71 Lok Sabha MPs the party wants to make the maximum for itself in the assembly polls.
The Congress, which ruled the state for a majority of years after Independence, has been in the doldrums for many years now. Sandwiched between the regional satraps and a resurgent BJP, the party has roped in election strategist Prashant Kishore to arrest its downslide in the state.
But the appointment of party veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad as the state’s in-charge has upset some party leaders — and UPCC chief Nirmal Khatri has been sulking.
The party’s organisation, despite some efforts of the leadership, remains moribund and incapable of taking on the well-oiled organisational machinery of the SP-BSP or the might of the BJP. The party is now heavily hoping against hope that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra takes charge of the state’s election and brings some respectable figures at the hustings. (IANS)