On a wing and a prayer: Prashant Kishor’s second innings and the road ahead for a jaded Congress

By: |
July 21, 2021 5:50 PM

Prashant Kishor and Congress are yet to emerge as a winning combination in major elections.

While the Congress has reserved its party presidentship for the Gandhi family, it also wants to see Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister.

Political strategist Prashant Kishor has been toiling hard these days. Recently, he not only held long meetings with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar but also with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Kishor has been given a rank and facilities commensurate to that of a cabinet minister after he was made Principal Advisor to Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh.

Recently, when he met Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi in New Delhi, it was believed that the focus of the discussion would be around the crisis within Congress in Punjab, but that was not the case. The meeting discussed putting up a united fight against the BJP in 2024. However, the task is not a cakewalk.

Unfortunately, Kishor and Congress are yet to emerge as a winning combination in major elections. Kishor worked for Modi till 2014 and then parted ways to join hands with Nitish Kumar, who was then with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. He then worked for Captain Amarinder Singh in 2017 for Punjab polls and Akhilesh Yadav for Uttar Pradesh polls and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy during the Andhra Pradesh Elections 2019. After that, Kishor worked for Mamata Banerjee before reuniting with Capt Singh.

A closer look at his political affiliations shows that the polls where he succeeded post-2014 happened largely due to the popular regional faces. Like in Bihar, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu’s RJD along with the Congress made for a formidable alliance that blocked BJP’s route to power. In Punjab, it was anti-incumbency against the SAD-BJP rule and then the popularity of Capt Singh which paved a way for the Congress government. The same was the case in Andhra Pradesh. In Uttar Pradesh, where Kishor worked for the Akhilesh-Rahul alliance, the BJP managed to sweep the polls without even projecting a CM face. Officially, it was Kishor’s first political defeat. On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee was again a strong and popular regional leader. It also shows that Prashant Kishor is selective in picking his political partners where he gives preference to the side having more chances of winning the poll.

Simply put, a successful combination of Kishor and Congress at the national level is yet to take shape.

While Prashant Kishor has maintained that Congress should be the fulcrum of any Opposition alliance aimed at defeating the BJP, a consensus among regional parties and Congress appears far from materialising in near future despite a strong push from Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar.

While the Congress has reserved its party presidentship for the Gandhi family, it also wants to see Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister. Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray have been nursing the same ambition. In such a scenario, when there are many contenders for a single post, it’s always tough to build a consensus when the candidates have to select one from themselves.

Notably, according to the India Today-Karvy Insights Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey held last year, PM Modi was the first choice as the country’s next PM with around 66 per cent people voting for him while Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s rating stood at 8 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. Though PM Modi’s ratings dipped post the second wave of the COVID-19 this year, there wasn’t a significant increase in Gandhi’s ratings, making it difficult to put up a face for the united opposition.

Whatever may be Kishor’s plan for his second innings, his success in the 2024 polls will depend on whether or not the Gandhis are willing to take a backseat in the interest of defeating the BJP.

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