Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi’s assurance to hand over the reins of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the party to a “new face” has found expression in the appointment of the Lok Sabha MP from Faizabad, Nirmal Khattri, as the new UPCC president. Mr. Khattri’s appointment made rounds of the Congress circles late Monday night, but was officially announced on Tuesday.

He takes over from Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who had resigned in the wake of the Congress rout in the State Assembly polls in February-March 2012. Dr. Joshi was, however, asked to continue till a new incumbent was named.

Notwithstanding the hype, the Congress fared poorly and managed to win only 28 seats. Following Mr. Khattri’s nomination, both the UP Congress president and the Congress Legislature Party leader are new faces. Pradeep Mathur, MLA from Mathura had replaced Pramod Tiwari as the CLP leader in June this year.

Mr. Khattri’s and Mr. Mathur’s appointments have underscored the Congress leadership’s desire to look beyond the traditional Brahmin, Thakur, Dalit or Backward caste factors in naming the incumbents to the two key Congress posts in Uttar Pradesh.

Several names were in the reckoning for becoming the next Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president after it became clear that the party high command wasn’t inclined to give Dr. Joshi further extension. Among them were the Union Minister of State for Roads and National Highways, Jitin Prasada, and the Union Minister of State for Petroleum, R. P. N. Singh.

Mr. Khattri was not among the front-runners for the post although Congress sources said that the Faizabad MP’s name had cropped up immediately after Dr. Joshi put in her papers owning moral responsibility for the party’s defeat in the Assembly elections. Mr. Khattri had then reportedly declined to take over as UPCC chief.

It was only late Monday night that Mr. Khattri’s nomination was cleared by the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, party sources said.