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Can Prashant Kishor's Midas Touch Revive a Jaded Cong as Gandhis Pin Hopes on 2024?

File photo of Prashant Kishor (PTI)

File photo of Prashant Kishor (PTI)

Sources close to Kishor say he is very wary of the party and if he does take charge, it will be with the condition and assurance that he would be given an “almost” free hand like he got in West Bengal.

Desperate times seek desperate measures and this seems to be true especially for the Congress. Even after a bitter fallout with Prashant Kishor post the 2017 UP polls, where many in the party openly criticised the election strategist for misleading the top leadership, the grand old party now realises it needs some of Kishor’s magic to maintain its political relevance.

Top Congress sources have told News18 that the meeting between Gandhis and Kishor had a larger agenda revolving around the 2024 polls, how Congress can be relevant and a factor in attempts to form a front against the BJP.

The presence of Sonia Gandhi at the meeting is significant as most seniors in opposition prefer to do business. Sources say Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra asked how Congress can be strengthened. The need for building the party from below to top was also discussed — a point the G-23 had raised in a letter to Sonia Gandhi that unless the organisation was strengthened at the district and block-level, the party would crumble.

At the meeting with PK, the big picture was discussed — the reason why Congress has not done well, what ails the Congress in states where it has been wiped out and what needs to be done for a new look.

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Political observers feel that the Congress party now looks jaded and has not been able to keep up with the times. The biggest blow was when the sway of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media pushed up the chances of the BJP, both at the national and state level.

The Congress belatedly joined social media and was extremely aggressive, even trending in many cases, but this somehow never translated into a winning trend as far as the state elections were concerned. The Congress certainly looks lazy, dragging its feet and not knowing which issue to take up. To add to it, contradictions and controversial comments coming in from different Congress leaders are also believed to have hurt the party along with massive infighting, ego clashes, unchecked ambitions and confusion — all reasons the top leadership believes could be responsible for the growing powerful regional satraps edging out the grand old party.

Compounding the Congress’ woes has been the fact that many leaders are leaving the party for what they are calling greener pastures. The loss of Jitin Prasada and Jyotiraditya Scindia may have invited caustic comments from many Congress leaders, calling them traitors, but its impact on the top leadership cannot be ignored. It’s also a reality that the Congress party is no longer attractive for those who have stuck around, with many leaders aimlessly waiting for the next set of instructions from the top brass which too seems to be in a shambles.

At a time like this, despite a section of the Congress revolting against the idea of a rank outsider calling the shots, the party feels the import is a necessity and is now ready to cling on to any hope.

The road, however, is not so smooth. Sources close to Kishor say he is very wary of the party and if he does take charge, it will be with the condition and assurance that he would be given an “almost” free hand like he got in West Bengal.

In Bengal, Kishor would even advise Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee on what to say and when to say as well as the appointments at the block and regional level. Just like the Congress, there were murmurs of dissent in the Trinamool Congress about Kishor’s “dictatorial” attitude but as he delivered a spectacular victory for Banerjee, they were soon silenced.

The Congress top leadership also hopes that this would be the case in the grand old party. Sources say one can expect many organisational changes in the Congress soon. The all-important issue of who can be the party president is also to be sorted out. The group of 23 had raised the point that with no clear line of leadership, the party was in disarray. For all this and much more, the Congress is pinning its hopes on Kishor.

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first published:July 14, 2021, 13:52 IST