Why Prashant Kishor-Congress talks collapsed?

pk sonia gandhi

Just as the two sides looked all set to move ahead, a rude jolt came, shutting doors between the Congress and poll strategist Prashant Kishor.

Prashant Kishor’s insistence on getting a free hand to revamp and turn around the grand old party and forge alliances for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls seems to have cost dear.

It is intriguing to note that the initiative to work for the Congress had come to Kishor from the Gandhis Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. When Kishor made the presentation in the presence of Sonia, Rahul and 13 senior party leaders, the Congress seemed in agreement with a majority of his proposals and suggestions. Both sides had sought more time to firm up the ‘deal’.

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Subsequently, two shades of opinion emerged in the Congress — whether Kishor’s services as a consultant or a full-time office bearer should be sought. At this juncture, Sonia Gandhi in particular, appeared a tad different, making it clear that she should go along with the majority opinion in the Congress. While Kishor kept believing that the Gandhis would stand by him, he sensed a different game plan when a proposal to join an ’empowered committee’ was made.

While not much details about the empowered committee formation are in public domain, it implied that Kishor would be a member of a panel consisting of 15-odd Congress leaders who will be formulating a ‘strategy’ for 2024 and holding negotiations with the non-NDA parties. The committee nomination was supposed to be in exchange for him formally joining the party. There was no one-on-one audience with Sonia Gandhi in sight. Kishor backed out quickly.

The future prospects may appear few for him but for the grand old party, building an alternative narrative for 2024 would be far more daunting. A ‘chintan shivar’ in Udaipur may not suffice.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Sonia Gandhi has conducted herself in this fashion. Arjun Singh, Natwar Singh and the Left parties got a taste of it. When Sonia had joined the Congress in 1998, party veteran Arjun Singh had thought himself to be her key advisor. Having fought a titanic battle against PV Narasimha Rao on ’behalf of 10, Janpath’, Arjun Singh in 1999-2000 found himself getting challenged by Pranab Mukherjee, Madhavrao Scindia and many others. By the time 2004 came, the Madhya Pradesh satrap was nowhere in the reckoning and had the ignominy of getting dropped from Manmohan Singh cabinet in 2009.

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Natwar Singh, too, fancied himself as Sonia’s eyes and ears but when Volker report came, 10, Janpath shut the doors on him. The Left kept believing that Sonia Gandhi would side with them to oppose the N-deal with the US but at the crucial juncture, Sonia went along with Dr Manmohan Singh. The Left stopped supporting the UPA but it survived a crucial vote of confidence in 2008.

A story from the legend of Laila-Majnu used to do the rounds in the Congress then. Laila, having heard that her beloved was wandering the streets of Baghdad hungry, sent her chambermaid with milk for him. A greedy beggar cornered the milk by pretending to be Majnu and chanting: Hai Laila. Hearing from other sources that Majnu’s condition had worsened further, Laila sent out her maid again with milk and the instruction to bring back a bowl of Majnu’s blood. This time, the beggar pointed to the real Majnu and said: “Hum to doodh wale Majnu hain, khoon wala woh raha (I’m the Milk Majnu, that one’s the Blood Majnu).” The story of the milk of kindness stop flowing abruptly, has now become part of the Congress folklore.

Telangana issue regarding Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) getting into a professional deal with the ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) for December 2023 Telangana Assembly polls too acted as a spoiler. Kishor had reportedly conveyed that the I-PAC’s continuation as an independent entity would not have a bearing on his induction in the Congress, particularly when he was neither “a stakeholder or a promoter” in I-PAC. However, for many in the Congress, this was a problem area and a case of conflict of interest.

This is for the third time that Congress-Kishor footsie has failed to take off. PK, as he fondly called, had teamed up with the Congress campaign for Uttar Pradesh in 2017, bringing in ‘Delhi-Mumbai’ but the move to rope in Sheila Dixit as chief ministerial face for Uttar Pradesh and Raj Babbar as state Congress unit chief, failed. The Congress, instead, joined hands with the Samajwadi Party, managing to win 7 out of 403 assembly seats.

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In 2021, Sonia Gandhi had invited Prashant Kishor and the two sides had reportedly covered a lot of ground. The detailed presentation doing the rounds on social media is supposed to be that one year old product. The two sides in 2021 had ‘paused’ because of Uttar Pradesh, Uttrahand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa polls.

It is an open secret that for years, the Congress has become status quoist and allergic to change. Prospects of disintegration, formation of breakaway groups, confrontation with non-BJP NDA parties appears real with the Gandhi trio, led by Rahul Gandhi at the helm of affairs.

Read the full article at: indiatoday.in

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