With the newly-appointed Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president, Brijlal Khabri, and its six regional chiefs – Ajay Rai, Yogesh Dixit, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, Virendra Chaudhary, Nakul Dubey and Anil Yadav – set to assume their offices next week, there seems to be growing resentment among many state unit activists over the point that most of these new appointments are not originally from the party, even as they have raised the question why the All India Congress Committee (AICC) leadership did not entrust the long-standing cadre with the task of reviving the party through these leadership positions.
Many among the UP Congress rank and file feel that the selection of the above names have been “rushed through” with the October 17 AICC presidential election in mind as the rejigged UPCC is now set to select the state party delegates who would vote in the election.
On its part, the Congress has tried hard to project how it has tried to balance the caste equations in forming the new UPCC leadership team by focusing on its old social combination – Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims – highlighting that it has now a Dalit state chief while having two Brahmins, two OBCs, one Muslim and one Bhumihar leaders as the party’s regional heads.
A section of the party leaders and workers however claim that they do not feel “any connection” with most of the new UPCC leaders who had originally been with other parties, especially the BSP.
Some party leaders also pointed out that despite its women-centric campaign in the UP Assembly polls earlier this year, which was spearheaded by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, and talks about encouraging women leadership in the state Congress, the party has not given any representation to women leaders among the new UPCC team.
“UP Congress leaders would have accepted appointing Brijlal Khabri as the party chief to send the message to the Scheduled Castes across the state, particularly Jatavs, before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. But it is hard to accept that the Congress leadership could not find its own cadre leaders to lead the party in the regions as well,” said a party leader.
“Leaders like Nakul Dubey (ex-BSP minister) had joined the Congress just before the Assembly polls and they have been made its Brahmin face. Leaders like Anil Yadav from Etawah might have been a district president there, but remains a little-known Yadav face across the state. The unit rejig has made it clear that party is just doing formality and that reviving the cadre is its least priority,” the leader charged.
However, some Congress leaders also feel that the party has picked Khabri, a known Dalit face and ex-BSP MP, as the UPCC head to send out a larger message not just across UP but also nationally about its Dalit outreach as part of its bid to revive its old social combination that had been also successfully achieved by the BSP once in the past although the latter could not replicate it in subsequent polls.
These leaders also say that the UPCC rejig was necessitated because the erstwhile state leadership failed to energise the party unit. They note that Khabri has been working for the party for the past six years and that Virendra Chaudhary, the MLA and OBC leader, Anil Yadav, the Etawah district chief, or Nasimuddin Siddiqui, the pary’s communications head, are prominent leaders from their communities.
Significantly, there has been little resentment in the Congress circles over the selection as regional heads of former MLA Ajay Rai, who had contested against Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice from the Varanasi parliamentary constituency, or that of Yogesh Dixit, who has risen from the Youth Congress to his current post. Rai has been fighting for the party in the Varanasi region for a long time.
However, many state Congress activists are surprised over the selection of Nakul Dubey as a regional party president. “One of the takeaways in the selection of these leaders is that loyalty does not count in the party. How can we expect such new leaders to know about the cadre – we have little hope,” said an angry party leader from Lucknow, adding “Vinash kale viprit buddhi (As doom nears, one’s intellect fails)”.