Raj Babbar appointed UP Congress chief

New Delhi: Actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar was today appointed as president of Uttar Pradesh Congress ahead of next year’s assembly polls in the state.

Four senior vice presidents, including Imran Masood, who had courted controversy a few years ago with his hate speech against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in 2014, were also appointed.

The announcement was made by party general secretaries Ghulam Nabi Azad and Janardan Dwivedi at a press conference at the AICC headquarters here.

Babbar (64), born in Tundla near Agra in UP, belongs to the Viswabrahmin community which is considered an OBC. He has been a three-time Lok Sabha member and is currently a Rajya Sabha member from Uttarakhand. He was a Rajya Sabha member earlier also.

“Congress President Sonia Gandhi has appointed Raj Babbar as new president of Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, along with four senior vice presidents,” Dwivedi said.

The new senior vice pressidents are Rajaram Pal, a backward, Rajesh Mishra, a Brahmin, and Bhagwati Prasad Chaudhary, a Dalit, besides Imran Masood, a minority.

The outgoing UP Congress chief Nirmal Khatra has been made the chairman of the state screening committe.

Azad later said that Babbar is “above caste” and has an appeal across the country.

The announcement came after Azad met Sonia Gandhi this morning at her residence. Later, Priyanka Gandhi met him at his residence for over an hour, raising speculation over her assuming a bigger role in Uttar Pradesh ahead of polls.

Asked about Priyanka, Azad said that elections are still far away and have not been announced yet.

He, however, admitted that there have been demands from party members from the state that she should campaign for the party beyond Rae Bareli and Amethi.

Masood had courted controversy ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls when he said that he “will chop Modi into pieces”.

Congress, which was once the dominant party in UP, had remained out of power in the state since long, losing out to the caste politics of Samajwadi Party and BSP. .