The Congress may be staring at another big exit in Uttar Pradesh with Raj Babbar giving off worrying signals. Raj Babbar’s recent tweets have been divergent from the party line and he has not bothered to clarify.
When a Padma Bhushan award for Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad provoked barbs from other party leaders like Jairam Ramesh, Raj Babbar effusively congratulated him.
“Congratulations Ghulam Nabi Azad Sahab! You’re like an elder brother and your impeccable public life and commitment to Gandhian ideals have always been an inspiration. The Padma Bhushan is an ideal recognition of five decades of your meticulous service to the nation,” tweeted the actor-turned-politician.
Congratulations @ghulamnazad Sahab !
You’re like an elder brother and your impeccable public life & commitment to Gandhian ideals have always been an inspiration. The #PadmaBhushan is an ideal recognition of 5 decades of your meticulous service to the nation.
— Raj Babbar (@RajBabbar23) January 25, 2022
Yesterday, Mr Babbar appeared to respond to criticism of his gesture for Ghulam Nabi Azad, a vocal member of the Congress’ “G-23” or group of 23 leaders that have been critical of the Gandhi family’s leadership of the Congress.
“An award becomes more meaningful when an opposition party leader’s achievements are honoured. Anybody can do it for their own party leaders. I think the row over the Padma Bhushan is needless,” he tweeted on Thursday.
अवार्ड की अहमियत तो तब है जब विरोधी पक्ष किसी नेता की उपलब्धियों को सम्मान दे – अपनी सरकार में तो कोई भी ख़्वाहिश पूरी कर सकते हैं लोग। #PadmaBhushan को लेकर जारी बहस मुझे लगता है ग़ैरज़रूरी है।
— Raj Babbar (@RajBabbar23) January 27, 2022
Reports have been in circulation about Raj Babbar returning to his former party, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, ahead of the UP election.
Mr Babbar has reportedly been in touch with Akhilesh Yadav.
Once a popular movie star, he debuted in politics in the late 1980s with the Janata Dal. He later switched to the Samajwadi Party. He won the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections from Agra. But in 2006, he was suspended from the Samajwadi Party. Two years later, he joined the Congress.
In 2009, Mr Babbar won the by-election from Firozabad. But he lost both the 2014 and 2019 elections.
Though he has not largely stayed below the radar in the campaign for the UP polls next month, Mr Babbar was named as one of the star campaigners of the Congress on Monday.
So was RPN Singh, another prominent Uttar Pradesh leader who quit the Congress the very next day and joined the BJP.
The Congress has been struggling to hold on to its top leaders for a while now.
The depletion of “team Rahul” – a group of leaders in Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle – started in 2020, when Jyotiraditya Scindia quit the party and switched to the BJP, enabling the collapse of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and the BJP’s takeover.
Last year, Jitin Prasada took the Congress-to-BJP route and was included in the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in UP.
This week, RPN Singh, who was close to Rahul Gandhi as well as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, dealt a huge blow to the Congress in UP by crossing over to the BJP.
All three were ministers in the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government at the Centre in 2004-2009.