IN A surprise move, the Congress Thursday appointed Urdu poet-turned-politician Mohd Imran Khan as the chairman of its minority department. Sources said his appointment could be the first of the many organisational changes in the party.
Better known as Imran ‘Pratapgarhi’, the 33-year-old replaced another youth leader from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Nadeem Javed.
While Imran lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Moradabad, getting just 5% of the votes, he is a prominent presence on social media with his aggressive poetry. While his YouTube channel has 1.55 million subscribers, his Facebook page has 19 lakh followers, and the Congress used him as a star campaigner in the Bihar Assembly elections.
The Congress hopes Imran, with his fan base and political vocabulary to express his views, can help it attract the youth minority vote, as the party seeks to claw its back into reckoning in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls next year. The growing importance of social media in political campaigns gives Imran an added advantage.
“At present the Congress needs young and aggressive leaders, who can defend the party line and attack the government,” a party leader said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Imran said, “My selection proves that the Congress does not suppress voices and instead gives them a chance and freedom to raise issues of their community and society in their own way.”
In a tweet Thursday night, he said he would try to fulfill the expectations of party president Sonia Gandhi, “my leader” Rahul Gandhi and Vadra. He said he would fight alongside partymen on the streets to raise their issues.
But the choice of Imran is also surprising as he had been an active participant in the anti-CAA protests last year, with the Moradabad district administration saying it would issue him a show cause notice to “recover Rs 1.04 crore” as cost of deploying security for the protests.
Imran had called the notice an attempt to stifle his voice. “Lekin meri awaaz dabegi nahin. Mein lagatar is andolan ka hissa hoon, is andolan ka hissa rahoonga (But they can’t silence me. I have been a part of this movement since the beginning, and will remain a part of it).”
Asked about the notice Thursday, Imran said he had heard about it but never got one.
Imran, who belongs to Lalganj in Pratapgarh, has attended poetry events across the country and abroad. While a lot of his writing attacks the Modi government and BJP, Imran has often praised the Samajwadi Party, particularly SP leader Azam Khan. Earlier this year, he had visited Azam Khan’s wife at their residence in Rampur.
In 2016, the Samajwadi Party government had conferred the “Yash Bharti” award on him for his poetry.
Moradabad, from where Imran got the ticket in 2019, is seen by local Congressmen as the “sasural” of AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. However, in an election where Rahul Gandhi was among the vanquished Congress leaders in the state, Imran had registered barely a presence against Samajwadi Party leader S T Hassan from the seat.
The Congress also appointed four new secretaries Thursday. Saptagiri Sankar Ulaka for Chhattisgarh, Deepika Pandey Singh for Uttarakhand, Imran Masud for Delhi and Brijlal Khabri for Bihar.