After Punjab victory, Congress wants Prashant Kishor for Gujarat campaign

With assembly elections in Gujarat dues at the end of the year, senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vagehla wants a role for poll strategist Prashant Kishor in the state.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2017 15:55 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prashant Kishor,Congress,Gujarat
The Congress now wants Prashant Kishor to campaign in Gujarat for the assembly elections after he piloted Captain Amarinder Singh’s victory in Punjab.(Reuters)

After brickbats in Uttar Pradesh, it’s time for poll strategist Prashant Kishor to get some bouquets from the Congress.

His efforts to ensure the defeat of ruling BJP-SAD and take the fizz out of AAP in Punjab has earned Kishor some praises in Gujarat – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

With the Congress dismissing campaign against Kishor for poll debacle in Uttar Pradesh as “propaganda by vested interest”, Gujarat leader of opposition Shankersinh Vagehla has batted for a role for him in the western state. Elections to the Gujarat assembly are due at the end of the year.

“His proper strategy and effective campaigning gave victory in Bihar and Punjab and will bring victory to Congress in Gujarat and Himachal,” the Gujarat veteran tweeted. “To defeat BJP in Gujarat is not difficult”.

Kishor has been under fire from a section of Congress veterans who blame him for party’s worst show in Uttar Pradesh.

A Congress leader triggered this with a poster in Lucknow, offering Rs 5 lakh as reward for anyone who can trace Kishor.

The Congress could win 7 seats out of total 105 it contested and polled just 6.2% votes.

The UP debacle, in a way, overshadowed Congress second best performance in Punjab after independence. The Congress won 77 out of 117 seats and polled 38.5% votes. The victory was crucial as Congress started on a weak wicket and was pitted against a formidable AAP of Arvind Kejriwal, which could win just 20 seats.

The Congress registered its best ever performance in 1992 when it got 87 seats with a vote share of 43%. This was post insurgency election when opposition boycotted the poll.

“When he forayed into Punjab, Congress was not even in contention. Today, results speak for themselves. He got a larger say in Punjab than in Uttar Pradesh,” a close aide of the poll strategist told HT.

Kishor’s association with Punjab started in January last year and his team moved in around early March for an image building exercise for Captain Amarinder Singh through events like ‘Coffee With Captain’, ‘Halke Vitch Congress’ and the door-to-door exercise.

The Uttar Pradesh assignment for Kishore came much later after Congress leadership realised the positivity he created for the party in Punjab. “Still, his ideas like active involvement of Priyanaka Gandhi in the poll campaign was blocked by the veterans,” the aide said.

Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh acknowledged Kishor’s contributions.

“As I have said many times before, PK and his team and their work was absolutely critical to our victory in Punjab,” he said.

The Congress, too, has indicated that it may not get rid of Kishor.

“Congress Party values the hard work and contribution of PK and team and rejects the propaganda by vested interests. Congress is determined to meet all future challenges with the entire pool of talent available,” its chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.

Surjewala’s remarks are perhaps a reflection of the trust that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi continues to have in the poll strategist who helped Modi win India in 2014 and followed it up by guiding Nitish Kumar to victory in Bihar in 2015 and added a third feather in cap by plotting Captain Amarinder Singh’s triumph Punjab in 2017.

First Published: Mar 22, 2017 15:55 IST