The changes are inspired by Rahul’s efforts to involve younger leaders

Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, the Congress replaced all its eight high profile zonal presidents in Uttar Pradesh with relatively lesser known names in the hope that they will be able to pay the sort of attention that their predecessors were unbale to in the 10 constituencies.

Those in the outgoing team included Union Ministers, RPN Singh and Jitin Prasada, chairperson of the SC Commission PL Punia, Special Invitee to the CWC and Rajya Sabha MP Rasheed Masood, MP Raja Ram Pal, former MP Bijendra Singh, MLA Anugrah Narain Singh and sitting MLA Vivek Singh, a majority of whom will be contesting for the Lok Sabha elections next year. This preoccupation, party sources said, will not give them too much time to work on other people’s election campaigns.

For the Congress, that followed a stellar performance in the State in 2009 with 22 MPs in the general elections with a depressing 28 seats in the 403-member State assembly in 2012 clearly felt the need to get its act together for 2014.

These changes have also been inspired by party vice president Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to involve younger, lesser-known and local leaders in the organisation, Congress sources said, stressing that they also have experience.Four of them are sitting MLAs and among them Laliteshpati Tripathi, the grandson of the late Kamalapati Tripathi, and Pankaj Malik, the son of Jaat leader Harinder Malik were in the earlier team, attached as vice presidents to two of the zonal presidents, Mr Punia and Mr Masood.

The two MLAs in the new team are Sanjay Kapoor and Dr Muslim, while the other four are ex-State Minister Deepak Kumar, ex-MLA Vinod Chowdhery, Digvijaya Singh and Bhagwati Chowdhury.

But even more interesting than these names is the list of district/ city Congress presidents: of the 31 new nominees, as many as 13 are Muslim, an indication of the message the Congress wishes to give to the minorities in Uttar Pradesh. Brahmins and OBCs are also well-represented.

Only one zonal vice president Aslam Rainee has survived the changes as a coordinator.

The other coordinators are Virendra Singh Guddu, Dilnawaz, Bansidhar Raj, Chandra Shekhar Singh, Virendra Chowdhery, Phoolwati Saini and Yogesh Dixit.

The Congress decision with dividing the State into zones began only late last year when the first appointments were made: the experiment did not work too well as most of the zonal presidents had other jobs as well, resulting in complaints coming in from the State unit.

This time, the Congress has changed the nomenclature of these appointees — instead of zonal presidents and vice presidents, they are now called zonal in-charges and zonal coordinators.