New Delhi: Congress leader Raj Babbar was on Tuesday appointed as the party’s chief in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. The decision was announced by party general secretary in-charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad at a press briefing in New Delhi.
The actor turned politician has replaced Dr Nirmal Khatri. Babbar had unsuccessfully contested against VK Singh of BJP from Ghaziabad in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Congress has also appointed 4 senior Vice Presidents to Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee – Raja Ram Pal, Rajesh Mishra, Bhagwati Prasad and Imran Masood.
When asked if Priyanka Gandhi will actively campaign in UP, Azad said, “Everyone associated with Congress has a role and it will continue like that.”
Earlier in the day, Priyanka had met Azad amid speculation about her assuming a bigger role in the party ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls in the state.
Party sources said Priyanka had an hour-long meeting with Azad at his residence here. They are learnt to have discussed her role in the party ahead of the Assembly polls in the state next year.
According to reports, Priyanka may assume an active and bigger role for Congress and may be its top campaigner in UP.
Priyanka has earlier campaigned in Rae Bareli and Amethi parliamentary constituencies, represented by her mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and brother and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, respectively.
Azad had held meetings with Sonia and Rahul in the past few days over the party’s poll strategy in UP. He has favoured Priyanka becoming pro-active and campaigning throughout the state.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who has been roped in by Congress to help and assist the party in Uttar Pradesh, has reportedly suggested Priyanka’s name for leading the party in the state.
Reports also have it that veteran leader Sheila Dikshit is likely to assume an active role in the key state. Party’s state president Nirmal Khatri is likely to be replaced, the sources said.
There has been divergence of opinion in Congress over Priyanka being made the top campaigner in Uttar Pradesh with a section insisting that she should canvass support for the party all over the country in the next Lok Sabha polls and should not focus on a state poll.
The Congress, which is making all efforts to re-establish its political stronghold in Uttar Pradesh in the Assembly polls, managed to win just two seats of Gandhi family bastion of Amethi and Rae Bareilly in the general election.
The party is in political wilderness in UP for the past more than 26 years which saw emergence of ‘Mandal’ and ‘Mandir’ issues and the rise of BSP.