Facing an uphill task in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress found a silver lining on Tuesday as former diplomat Satender Kumar joined the party, raising the party's hopes for revival in a state where it has been pushed to the margins for decades.
Kumar, who retired from the Indian Foreign Service on June 30, was accorded a high-profile welcome in the presence of AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, Uttar Pradesh Congress President Raj Babbar and other state leaders.
Azad did not forget to highlight the fact that Kumar is from the Scheduled Caste community and hails from Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh. The region had witnessed communal riots ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
The Congress is trying to get a toehold in the region by promoting Imran Masood, who hails from the region, as the vice president of the state unit.
The region is a stronghold of Jats, Muslims and Dalits, with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal and Mayawati's BSP holding sway in the electorate.
The communal flare-up in 2013 had helped the BJP make inroads in the region, with Raghav Lakhanpal defeating Masood by a margin of 65,000 votes.
Azad said Kumar joining the Congress was an indication that the party was gaining acceptability in the intelligentsia, among opinion-makers and the educated sections.
Babbar said two more bureaucrats were set to join the Congress in Lucknow in the next few days and expressed the hope that the trend would continue.
"I am confident that not only the Dalit community, but people from all walks of life, including senior officers who have retired, will be inspired to join the Congress taking cue from Kumar," Azad said.
Kumar is not a stranger to politics. His grandfather Nanda Singh was a freedom fighter and a member of the Congress, who held the post of town area chairman in Saharanpur in 1930s.
Arch rivals Samajwadi Party and BSP have joined hands in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha elections and appear in a mood to hand out a raw deal to the Congress, forcing it to look at the option of going it alone in the state.