After facing a shocking defeat in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, will the Congress be helped by poll strategist Prashant Kishor in the upcoming Gujarat elections? Such questions have been part of discussions in the political corridors.
For the Gujarat polls later this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have already begun campaigning.
Congress Requires PK’s Expertise
According to exclusive information given to Quint Hindi, the Congress wants to enter the electoral battle of Gujarat with the help of Prashant’s expertise and his Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) team. However, after the dismal results in UP, Kishor is in no rush.
The Congress party, which contested 105 seats in the UP elections, won only seven seats, which is its worst performance so far. Prashant was the party’s ‘Electoral Chanakya’, but received a blow after the debacle.
It is said that the Congress high command had handed over the electoral reins to Prashant against the will of local leaders and workers, a move for which the Congress apparently suffered.
A Twist in the Story
In such a situation, you might be wondering why the Congress wants to rely solely on a ‘failed strategist’? Here is a little twist in the story.
A source close to Prashant told Quint Hindi that in the UP elections, the Congress rejected crucial suggestions from Prashant at the last moment, which did not go down well with him. He now wants a definitive guarantee before joining hands with the Congress that there will be no whips on their strategy and suggestions at the last moment.
What is the issue?
Opposition leader in the Gujarat Assembly Shankar Singh Vaghela had said on 22 March that the Congress could again make Prashant their strategist for the Gujarat polls. Vaghela as well as Gujarat Congress chief Bharat Singh Solanki have met with him.
However, the decision lies in the hands of Delhi and not Ahmedabad. According to sources, Congress high command is also in favour of him. There is no opposition from the state unit like there was at the time of the UP elections. But the conversation is stuck at Prashant’s level.
According to a source close to Prashant:
The question is not about the Congress, but about him. The party has been eager to call a truce for quite some time now, but we don’t want to make any hasty decisions post UP elections.
Prashant’s Suggestions Ignored
Priyanka Gandhi was Prashant’s ‘Brahmastra’ during the UP elections. According to sources, the Congress had agreed to place Priyanka in the limelight. However, as the elections came closer, the party backtracked. This was a huge setback for Prashant and the Congress was never able to regain the ground they lost.
That’s not all. Sources say that Priyanka entering the political fray was an item of interest amongst mediapersons and thus was in the limelight, but apart from that there were many suggestions from Prashant that were rejected at the last moment.
On condition of anonymity, a senior member of the IPAC team told us that the promise of loan waiver for farmers, which turned out to be BJP’s ‘sanjeevani’ in UP, was initially Prashant’s plan when he launched Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Deoria from Delhi’ Kisan Yatra almost six months ago. But, as the trip came to an end, the issue also lost traction.
The alliance with the Samajwadi Party came after a considerable delay and both the parties could not take political dividend. The party did not pay heed to the suggestion of keeping the OBC voters in mind during ticket distribution.
According to sources, the BJP was able to take advantage of many issues which were sidelined by the Congress and the SP.
Why is Congress Keen On Prashant’s Re-Entry?
Now the question is if Prashant has not given a nod to becoming the Congress’ strategist, why is the party eager to rope him in. According to Congress sources, here are some concrete reasons:
1. Gujarat’s politics is not new to Prashant. He was the campaign chief for Narendra Modi during his election campaign in 2012.
2. The IPAC played a huge role in the BJP’s bumper victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
3. After breaking ties with the BJP, Prashant and his team joined Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and won the 2015 elections.
4. In 2017, the Congress lost in UP and Uttarakhand, but achieved a tremendous victory in Punjab. After this, the party officially praised his role.
According to a source in the IPAC:
It is not impossible to uproot the BJP’s 22-year-old government from Gujarat, but it is not easy either. In such a situation, the Congress cannot be indecisive. The problem for us is that once we take over the job, we cannot let it go mid-way.
However, it is for sure that Prashant won’t agree to any ambiguous assurances. This time they need to provide him with a solid assurance that can be only made at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s level.
The question is how quick will Rahul Gandhi induct him because delayed decisions may not prove helpful for the party.
(The article was originally published on Quint Hindi)