Political strategist Prashant Kishor met Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav at his official home on Monday, triggering speculation about the Congress exploring possibilities of joining a Bihar-type grand alliance for next year’s state elections.
But his moves came in for serious questioning at Monday’s meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in New Delhi. “Ghulam Nabi Azad, the party’s state general secretary in-charge, and Raj Babbar demanded a ban on Kishor’s activities and favoured the cancellation of the contract with him,” a source said.
State Congress chief Babbar has consistently denied any talks on a possible alliance with the SP.
Kishor has already met Samajwadi Party (SP) patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief minister’s father, in New Delhi and Lucknow — apparently to discuss a potential partnership.
Mulayam has proposed a mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, for the UP polls, although he had walked out of a similar coalition between the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress in Bihar ahead of elections there in 2015.
Kishor, who was poll strategist for Kumar and Prasad in Bihar, is now helping the Congress in UP.
His meeting with Akhilesh lasted more than an hour — a surprise because the chief minister reportedly turned down an audience with him on Sunday.
“We are willing to take a few steps backwards to save the secular and socialist fabric of the state,” Akhilesh said and clarified that his father would take a final call on the alliance.
Kishor, who is camping in Lucknow for the past week, couldn’t be contacted for his response.
Later a tweet from his organisation, Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), said: “Meeting b/w PK & SP leadership was a courtesy call; discussion was about general political scenario in UP & not about alliance b/w SP & INC.”
Meeting b/w PK & SP leadership was a courtesy call; discussion was about general political scenario in UP & not about alliance b/w SP & INC— I-PAC (@IndianPAC) November 7, 2016
Regional party leaders are reluctant to rush into Mulayam’s unity proposal as his family is embroiled in a bitter power struggle.
“Meetings to discuss seat-sharing and common campaign plans have not been planned. Prospects of a grand alliance in UP appear dim,” a senior JD(U) leader said.
Bihar chief minister Kumar has sought the inclusion of Mayawati’s BSP into the platform, but factions within the SP are opposed to the proposal. For her part, Mayawati ruled out any alliance.