Plan to induct strategist Prashant Kishor into Congress hits roadblock

Updated on Oct 08, 2021 06:12 PM IST

After a series of meetings that started in the spring of 2020 when Kishor first met party president Sonia Gandhi, and meetings with regional leaders across the country, the plan has now been “put off”, two leaders familiar with the details said

File photo: Election strategist Prashant Kishor. (Santosh Kumar/ HT Photo)
File photo: Election strategist Prashant Kishor. (Santosh Kumar/ HT Photo)

Has the proposal to induct election strategist Prashant Kishor into the Congress hit a major roadblock? After a series of meetings that started in the spring of 2020 when Kishor first met party president Sonia Gandhi, and meetings with regional leaders across the country, the plan has now been “put off”, two leaders familiar with the details said. Why? “A trust deficit,” they added on condition of anonymity.

This came to the fore in late September, when Congress’ Luizinho Falerio, a former chief minister of Goa, left the party for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and said he met and discussed his options with Kishor, although he added that the political strategist did not ask him to join the TMC.

After Kishor’s last meeting with the Congress top brass at least a month ago, the party thought he had “too many demands”, one of the two leaders said.

Then, on Friday, Kishor put out a cryptic statement about the party’s recent response to the Lakhimpur Kheri incident in Uttar Pradesh where violence erupted after a convoy, including a car belonging to the junior Union minister for home, rammed into a group of farmers, following which irate farmers lynched some of the occupants. Eight people, including four farmers, died in the violence.

In an apparent takedown of sections of the party celebrating what they thought was a political win in Lakhimpur Kheri, Kishor said: “People looking for a quick, spontaneous revival of GOP- led opposition based on #LakhimpurKheri incident are setting themselves up for a big disappointment. Unfortunately, there are no quick fix solutions to the deep-rooted problems and structural weakness of GOP,’’ tweeted Kishor.

GOP stands for grand old party, a term sometimes used for the Congress.

Kishor is credited with helping the TMC win the West Bengal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham Tamil Nadu elections this year, as well as the Aam Aadmi Party the Delhi polls last year.

Also read: Bhupesh Baghel replies to Prashant Kishor, explains what doesn’t have ‘quick-fix’ solution

People close to Kishor denied his comments had any bearing on his prospects of joining the Congress, but some in the party reacted sharply. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera responded soon after Kishor tweeted, saying: “There is a difference between tacticians and strategists.’’ Officially, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala said that he “didn’t want to comment on the comments of a consultant’’.

However, Khera and other Congress leaders were in no mood to entertain Kishor’s explanation that his tweet was a word of caution for those that sought to pitch the Lakhimpur Kheri episode, where Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was detained for two days before achieving her goal of meeting with victims’ families, as a kind of win. According to Team Kishor, he would continue to do this kind of plain-speak even as a Congressman.

Still, the tweet comes against the backdrop of Kishor’s meetings with the Congress that do not seem to have made much headway.

HT learns that in internal meetings, some Congress leaders have articulated fears about Kishor being a Trojan Horse who would join them, but maybe help his older clients such as the TMC and even the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Others have pointed out that it was strange that while Kishor was meeting the Congress leadership, he was also having extended meetings with NCP founder Sharad Pawar. Kishor was also believed to be involved in talks with Congress leaders in Meghalaya who were considering leaving the party before the high command stepped in to stop them.

A Congress leader said that Kishor’s entry looked tough even by the end of August. In the last meeting that took place between him and the leadership, he asked for organisational changes to be made before he joined the party, the first leader familiar with the matter said.

“He also asked who he will report to?” added this person. All of this led to many concluding that Kishor was “too difficult’’ and was “imposing too many conditions.’’

Kishor did not respond to HT’s queries seeking comment. HT had earlier reported a key meeting on July 22 chaired by Rahul Gandhi, where the consensus was to induct Kishor in a senior role in the Congress. Since then, the tide seems to have turned against Kishor.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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