Tough task ahead for Nirmal Khatri in Uttar Pradesh

In a state where caste is considered a crucial factor for electoral victory, the anointment of Nirmal Khatri as the new chief of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress has flummoxed many in the political circle.

The leaders of different political outfits here hardly expect any charismatic performance by the new chief who has been deployed by the top brass to infuse a new lease of life into the party, and boost the sagging morale of the party workers, still smarting from the crushing defeat at the recently concluded Assembly polls in the state.

“Khatri may not be able to do much for the party in the caste-ridden electoral politics in the state...the party needed a young and energetic face, who could extensively tour the state and enthuse the workers,” said a senior state leader here.

“The Congress must address the caste equations in the state, if it wants to register its presence...that has now become a reality,” said another senior leader, who suggested that a dalit or a Muslim would have been a better choice.

“The BJP has a Brahmin president, while the SP has a Yadav and the BSP has a rajbhar chief at the state unit'', he pointed out.

“In the last Assembly polls, the Muslims had not supported the Congress and had switched loyalty to the SP....had a Muslim been appointed the state unit chief, it would have sent a positive message to the community,” the leader asserted.

Khatri's only advantage appears to be his non-controversial image. “He may have been made president so that he can carry along all the factions...besides he may enjoy support of leaders from every caste,” said another state leader.

Khatri is the grand son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Acharya Narendra Dev and is considered to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi clan. He has also been the president of the UP unit of the Youth Congress for three years and was also a minister of state in 1981.
He replaces Reeta Bahuguna Joshi, who had resigned owning “moral responsibility” for the party’s dismal performance soon after the results were declared.

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