Rai belongs to the upper caste of Bhumihar and the party's senior leader Rajesh Mishra is unhappy as he feels that the Congress should focus on its core voters like Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims who had kept the party in power for several decades.
NEW DELHI — The sleepy head office of Congress in Uttar Pradesh’s capital city of Lucknow is getting a revamp after Ajay Rai (54) assumed charge as Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president.
Rai, a five-time legislator from Varanasi, has directly been appointed to the prestigious post by Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge. Party officials believe Rai has the approval of both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi as well.
The new chief of the party’s state unit faces an uphill task as the party cadre is evenly divided between Rahul and Priyanka loyalists, party insiders said on Friday, reports reaching here said.
Several people from the Rahul camp have gone to the press to claim that their leader should be declared the face of the Congress within INDIA, the grand alliance of opposition parties. Others want Priyanka to be the prime ministerial face in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Congress leader Acharya Pramod is unhappy that it is not yet finalised if Priyanka will contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 from Varanasi. “It would be better to declare Priyanka Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate,” he told the media recently. He feels that Priyanka is a popular face and a strong candidate against the ruling party.
Meanwhile, former Varanasi Member of Parliament, and member of the party’s central election committee, Rajesh Mishra is unhappy with the appointment of Rai as UPCC head. Rai belongs to the upper caste of Bhumihar and Mishra is unhappy over it as he feels that the Congress should focus on its core voters like Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims who had kept the Congress in power for several decades.
The vote percentage of Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims is over 15 percent of the total population while Bhumihars comprise less than one percent. Other Congressmen said Rai has been chosen as head of the UPCC not because of his caste but because of his excellent organisational skills.
Last Friday Rai had publicly announced that Rahul Gandhi would contest the Amethi Lok Sabha seat in the next Lok Sabha elections. It may be recalled that Rahul was defeated in the 2019 elections in Amethi by a margin of about 55,000 votes.
The Amethi Lok Sabha constituency is long considered a Gandhi family stronghold. Rahul has been contesting from here since 2004. Earlier, Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Sanjay Gandhi were also MPs from this seat. Now reports from the ground reveal that many voters favour Rahul Gandhi today and would like him to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Amethi.
Rai replaced Brijlal Khabri, a Dalit leader who was chosen nearly a year ago to lead the state party unit by Priyanka. Khabri’s exit as head of the party in the state also signals the retreat of Priyanka Gandhi from the very complex politics of Uttar Pradesh.
Rai has a considerable political clout, especially in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019 against the ruling party. Although Rai began his political career with the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vidyarthi Parishad, the graduate of Varanasi’s Kashi Vidyapeeth is seen as a committed Congressman. In the past Rai was a minister of state in the Mayawati-led BSP-BJP government. He fell out with the ruling party after senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi was chosen as its Lok Sabha candidate from Varanasi in 2009 instead of him.
Rai contested the 2009 Lok Sabha election as a candidate of the Samajwadi Party and joined the Congress in 2012. He defeated the ruling party nominee in the same year and which got the Congress to field him against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.