Struggling to arrest its falling fortunes in electorally important Uttar Pradesh, Congress may carry out a massive rejig of its state leadership next fortnight and announce its Chief Ministerial candidate who in all likelihood will be a “Brahmin”.
There are also views within a section of the party that a turnaround in Uttar Pradesh is possible only if either of the Gandhis–Priyanka or Rahul–takes the lead in the state polls.
However, there has been no indication from the party so far that it is inclined to field any of the two Gandhis in the assembly polls in the state where Congress is considered to be on a weak wicket.
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor is learnt to be in favour of either of the Gandhis taking the lead in the state election and, if they do not agree, a well-known Brahmin face should be projected as the chief ministerial candidate.
Sources close to the leadership indicated that key decisions about the rejig are likely to be announced after May 19, the day counting of votes for the assembly polls in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Puducherry takes place.
The Pradesh Congress Committee Chief, the Congress Legislature Party Leader and even those managing the state affairs at the AICC level could be changed, the sources say.
Making a serious attempt to stage a comeback in the state to which most of the Congress Prime Ministers belonged and where it has been in wilderness after the surge in Mandal-Mandir poitics, the party has roped in Kishor, who is learnt to have strongly favoured a Brahmin as the party’s face in the polls due next year.
The name of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has also been considered, sources said.
Kishor, who had managed the hugely successful election campaigns for Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance in the Bihar assembly elections last year, has been drafted by the Congress to draw up a campaign strategy for the key cow belt state.
There is a thinking in the party that since Brahmins, who constitute 10 to 12 per cent of the electorate, are the only vote bloc Congress can hope to make inroads into, projection of a person from the community as chief ministerial face would help the party regain their support. With the advent of Mandal-Mandir politics, Brahmins, who had traditionally voted for Congress, shifted allegiance to the BJP.
There has also been a buzz that the Congress could field its top guns in the assembly polls, including some of its MPs, especially those who had been Union Ministers in UPA I and II governments.
Kishor, who is known for building his campaign strategy around strong personalities, is learnt to be keen that Congress should project a face in the state as it could galvanize the cadres.
Key pladers in the state– Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati–are personality driven and have their strong vote bases, while Congress, which has been out of power in the state for nearly-three decades, suffers from a leadership crisis.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, Congress could win only in two places with party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul retaining their traditional Raebareli and Amethi seats.
A source involved in the planning for the state elections said the party will fight the polls as if it were fighting the 2019 general elections.
“We will have a Brhamin face backed by a combined support of some other upper castes, Muslims and non-Jatav dalits,” the source said.
There are issues in the party at the grassroots level due to infighting and a demoralized cadre.
Kishor has tried to get feedback on the organisational shortcomings that led to poor show of the party in the 2012 assembly polls, barely three years after it had won 21 seats in 2009 Lok Sabha elections.