Congress faces exodus of key state leaders

Varanasi : There are hardly 10 days to go for the “grand rally” by Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Varanasi to launch the Congress poll campaign in UP. The party is facing an exodus of key state leaders, many of whom are making a beeline for the Samajwadi Party.

On Friday, the party’s prominent Bundelkhand leaders and former MLAs, Gayadeen Anuragi and Vinod Chaturvedi, joined SP along with Manoj Tiwari from Mahoba.

Their exits come a day after the party’s former MLA and leading minority face in western UP, Imran Masood, said SP was the only option to defeat BJP in the state and that all parties should “come along with it”.

Masood also said that despite all the hard work, Priyanka was “failing to consolidate votes or get votes” in favour of the party. Masood, who was earlier with SP, was recently made AICC secretary and given charge of Delhi.

Congress sources told that Masood and a Jat leader were set to leave the party and join SP. Masood dismissed this indication as “mere speculation” but sources close to him said he is likely to meet SP chief Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday or Monday along with the Jat leader.

The Congress had already been left red-faced earlier this year by the high-profile departure of Jitin Prasada, who is now a minister in the BJP state government led by Yogi Adityanath. But still, the exit of Anuragi comes as a major jolt since he was among the party’s prominent Dalit faces with significant influence in the Bundelkhand region.

Apart from being a former MLA from Rath, Anuragi was recently made vice-president of the Congress state unit and asked by Priyanka to prepare the party for polls in the region.

Sources said Anuragi, veteran Chaturvedi from Jalaun and Tiwari left because “they were no longer feeling comfortable in the Congress and felt they were not being heard”.

Just about a week ago, former MLA and a party vice-president, Lalitesh Pati Tripathi, had left the Congress. Lalitesh, who is the great grandson of former Chief Minister Kamalapati Tripathi and seen as a young Brahmin face, had been given the responsibility of handling poll preparations in eastern UP.

Lalitesh has denied that he is joining another party but said that he left the Congress because he felt that his “voice was not being heard”. “If he joins another party, some senior office-bearers of the Congress from Varanasi and adjoining areas will also join him,” sources said.

On Friday, the Congress sent a letter to all its office-bearers in UP, asking them to participate in the Varanasi rally on October 10, which will be addressed by Priyanka. The letter asked them to ensure the presence of all office-bearers, including former MLAs, former MPs, leaders in block and ward committees, former candidates and those willing to contest now.

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