Amid reports of unease within the party over poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s brief, the Congress clarified on Monday that his role is limited only to suggesting relevant points for manifesto and election campaign in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
The statement comes at a time when the disquiet within the main opposition party is palpable over Kishor’s reported suggestion that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi should be declared as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections are due early next year.
Kishor, who is also looking after the Congress campaign in Punjab, had also rubbed state Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh the wrong way by meeting expelled leaders Jagmeet Singh Brar and Bir Devinder. The move had enraged Amarinder who asserted that no one had authorised Kishor to meet the expelled leaders and that he should not exceed his brief.
“Prashant Kishor is a poll strategist and he will suggest which points are to be highlighted in our manifesto and in our campaign,” said Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad, who is in-charge of party affairs in Punjab. “It was made clear to him before his appointment that he will have no role in organisational matters and in ticket distribution,” he said.
The statement was widely seen as an attempt by the central leadership to address the concerns of party leaders and workers in the two poll-bound states. “he has finally been shown his place,” commented a leader from UP.
Last month, a section in the Uttar Pradesh Congress had complained to the central leadership about Kishor’s “autocratic style of functioning” and “unsolicited interference” in organisational affairs. Kishor had earlier worked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in last year’s state assembly polls.
Ahmad insisted that there was no turf war or communication gap between Amarinder and Kishor. “Both of them are committed to deliver a crushing defeat to the Akali Dal in Punjab,” he said.
However, Ahmad justified Kishor’s appointment. “The mode of campaign has undergone a sea change in the internet age where social media has assumed much importance,” he said.