Express News Service
LUCKNOW: Days before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Congress looks emaciated amid desertions by prominent party leaders as well as due to the absence of seniors from active campaigning.Former state Congress chief Raj Babbar, former Rajya Sabha member and the nine-time MLA from Rampur Khas Pramod Tiwari and the party’s senior Schedule Caste face P L Punia aren’t seen much.On the contrary, the party is importing leaders from other states such as Sachin Pilot from Rajasthan and Bhupesh Baghel from Chhattisgarh to take command of its campaign in UP.
“The absence of senior leaders from the poll arena is adding to the gloom and disillusionment of the party rank and file. Those who want to campaign are increasingly feeling that it’s an exercise in futility,” said a senior Congress leader. Babbar was heading the party’s sate unit in the 2017 assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The buzz in political circles is that he is planning to do an Imran Masood, who left the Congress last month to join the Samajwadi Party.
Quite a few prominent faces in the state have left the party over the years. They include former UPCC presidents Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Jagdambika Pal and former Union ministers Jitin Prasada and RPN Singh. Even Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s plunge into active politics has failed to revive the party. The party had won seven assembly seats in 2017 but four of the MLAs have left. While Aditi Singh, Rakesh Pratap Singh and Naresh Saini have joined the BJP, Masood Akhtar has joined the SP.
Many prominent faces left the party even after being declared candidates. For instance, Supriya Aron, former Bareilly mayor, joined the SP after getting Congress nomination from Bareilly Cantt. Similarly, Haider Ali Khan from Suar in Rampur and Masood Akhtar from Saharanpur exited to Apna Dal (S) and SP, respectively, after getting the Congress ticket.
The party is now left with only a few identifiable faces who can be used for campaigning in the state. In such a scenario, the likes of Pramod Tiwari, PL Punia and Nirmal Khatri have confined themselves to attending events and meetings at the party headquarters in Lucknow. The party’s door-to-door campaigns are yet to pick up momentum apparently because there are not many party leaders. “It is time Priyanka gave a bigger role to local leaders rather than importing big names from Congress-ruled states,” says Prof AK Mishra, a Lucknow-based political analyst.