It has been learnt that the Congress party’s political strategist for Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, Prashant Kishor, is not having an easy time with the 'grand old party'.
Kishor has taken upon himself the impossible task of winning the two states for the Congress, with one main condition: a free hand in decision making. While the top leadership of the Congress party has not restricted him yet, other leaders in Delhi and the two states have been lobbying hard to curb Kishor’s influence.
The party’s general secretary for Punjab, Shakeel Ahmed, has gone on record to say that Kishor’s role is limited to suggesting ideas for the manifesto and the campaign – a far cry from how Kishor and his Indian Political Action Committee operate. Ahmed has also made it clear that Kishor would have no role in organizational matters or ticket distribution.
The complaint that Kishor was “interfering” in the party’s internal affairs became particularly strong after Captain Amarinder Singh went on record to say Kishor had no business meeting dissidents expelled from the party. Singh was later pacified and he went on to tweet there were no differences between him and Kishor. However, the public spat between the political strategist and the CM candidate in Punjab is a typical example of how the Congress may not be compatible with Kishor.
The unwillingness of general secretaries Ahmed and Madhusudan Mistry, who look after Uttar Pradesh, to cede a free hand to Kishor has become a bone of contention. On a number of other issues, the party’s leadership in Delhi has been dragging its feet. Some of these include declaring a Brahmin chief ministerial candidate face in Uttar Pradesh, launching Priyanka Gandhi as a campaign face in UP, and making a big formal declaration of Amarinder Singh as the Punjab CM candidate.
Kishor started working with the Congress in February-March. While his immediate mandates were Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the understanding was that these would lead up to Kishor doing the 2019 campaign for the party.
Predictably, a section of the Congress that fears for its influence in decision-making has been opposed to Kishor getting a free hand. In Punjab, leaders close to Captain Amarinder Singh have been lobbying against Kishor. In Uttar Pradesh, a section has approached the party’s top leadership against Kishor’s “autocratic style”.
With Narendra Modi in 2014 and Nitish Kumar in the Bihar assembly elections last year, Kishor was working directly with the top leadership and thus had a free hand. The Congress, however, finds it difficult to be nimble-footed and take key decisions quickly, as it has to take along various senior leaders and competing interests.
As the conflict between Kishor and Congressmen reaches a boiling point, sources close to Kishor say he could call it quits in a few weeks if his demands are not met. It would be pointless for him to continue, sources close to him say, lest the party heeds his advice on what it takes.
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