For poll strategist Prashant Kishor, the time for basking in the glory of past achievements just got over.
Though the Congress registered a resounding victory in Punjab, the win was largely attributed to Captain Amarinder Singh’s charisma and the ten-year anti-incumbency factor against the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine rather than Kishor’s campaign strategy.
But Kishor will have much explaining to do on his role in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the Congress has been reduced to ashes. It was Kishor who had persuaded the Congress leadership to go in for an alliance with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and fight the assembly elections under outgoing chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The move backfired for the Congress.
Unlike his stint with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Kishor had a relatively tough assignment with the Congress.
Right from the beginning, he remained a ‘persona non grata’ in the Congress. At the time of hiring Kishor early last year, Congress leaders had insisted his expertise is needed to help the party adapt to changes in the mode of campaign in the internet age with social media having assumed much significance.
But Kishor found it difficult to implement all his ideas in the grand old party. A few of his suggestions that Rahul Gandhi be declared the party’s UP chief ministerial candidate and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should lead the campaign were rejected outright by the Congress leadership.
A section in the Uttar Pradesh Congress had also complained to the party high command about Kishor’s “autocratic style of functioning” and “unsolicited interference” in organisational matters, and cited his “unilateral decision” to summon the meetings of party office bearers.
Then, his meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had again angered some Congress leaders. Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar claimed that Kishor did not have the mandate to talk on the alliance issue and any negotiation on a tie-up with any political party has to be done by the party leadership and not the poll strategist.
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Babbar and Kishor were at loggerheads over issues related to the party organisation. Babbar had once remarked that Rahul Gandhi and not Kishor is his leader.
Kishor was in favour of a grand alliance in UP and had contended that the move will check the BJP’s rise in the country’s politically important state but Congress leaders were wary of any truck with Mulayam. However, Kishor finally prevailed over the Congress to play the second fiddle to the SP under chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
He had also rubbed Punjab Congress Captain Amarinder Singh up the wrong way initially by meeting expelled leaders Jagmeet Singh Brar and Bir Devinder. An enraged Amarinder issued a statement that no one had authorised Kishor to meet the expelled leaders and warned him not to exceed his brief.
As reports of unease within the party grew, the Congress clarified that Kishor’s role is limited only to suggesting relevant points for manifesto and election campaign in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The party told him in no uncertain terms to stay away from organisational matters and ticket distribution.