In 2016, when Rahul Gandhi started his Khat Yatra from Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, it was RPN Singh who was at the forefront of it, being the biggest leader Congress had from Kushinagar region in eastern UP. The yatra progressed with Lalitesh Tripathi in Mirzapur region, Jitin Prasada in Shahjahanpur and ultimately Imran Masood in Saharanpur helping with good turnouts at gatherings.
All these four payas (legs) of the Congress khat (cot) in Uttar Pradesh, have now quit the party in quick succession, putting into focus the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the general secretary incharge in the state.
“Achha hua aap hamari party se kaayaron ko le ja rahe hain (It is good that you are taking away the cowards from our party),” Priyanka is said to have told Akhilesh Yadav on a flight a couple of months ago, in reference to the impending exit of Masood to the Samajwadi Party.
The problem, however, may not lie in the point of a leader being a coward — it is more about one’s political future. It is apparent that all the four leaders in question, RPN Singh, Jitin Prasada, Lalitesh Tripathi and Imran Masood felt they simply cannot win a seat on a Congress ticket.
All these four leaders faced repeated reverses in their strongholds in elections, losing both parliamentary and assembly elections as the Congress party simply failed to inspire any confidence among the electorate. “I am popular in my area and people want me as their representative but they simply do not want to vote for my party,” one of the said four leaders had told News18 in an informal conversation.
RPN Singh lost elections as an MP from Kushinagar, and as an MLA from Padrauna to his bete noire, Swami Prasad Maurya, despite being popular in his constituency and voters describing him as earnest and accessible, when this correspondent visited Kushinagar during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. The same was the case with Lalitesh Tripathi, Jitin Prasada and Imran Masood — all of whom lost several elections. With his long-time rival switching to the SP, RPN Singh’s entry into the BJP became a smooth affair. The party may even put him up against Maurya from Padrauna.
Under Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, there seems to have been no change in the perceptible situation that the Congress remains weak electorally in Uttar Pradesh. The party is down to just three MLAs in the state with four of its legislators from 2017 quitting the party as well, including Aditi Singh from Rae Bareli. Though the party may come up with new narratives like the women voter and the ‘Ladki hun, lad sakti hun’ (I am a girl, I can fight) campaign, it remains a long arduous road for the Congress ahead in the state.
Many leaders like RPN Singh are simply not ready to waste their political future taking that tunnel at the end of which they see no light. Priyanka Gandhi retorted last week that “do you see any other face in Congress in UP” when asked who will be the party’s face in the poll-bound state. Though she went back on that statement later, it seems ironic that the Congress in Uttar Pradesh right now is actually left with no big faces.