With 2024 in sight, Congress embraces Prashant Kishor

I was the first to report in Gulf News that India’s most prominent election strategist, Prashant Kishor (PK), is in talks to join India’s big old political party – the Congress.

The reason for the pat on the back – it’s extremely rare to get a giant political scoop and have it die right. The trust Gulf News has placed in me to print my scoop is rare – reporters are regularly guessed by mainstream newspapers.

I have no hesitation in saying that we beat every major Indian media on the important story of PK.

Trust issues are hampering Kishor’s entry into Congress even as he made a detailed presentation on the 2024 elections to Congress leaders in the presence of top brass – Acting Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her children – Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

Gandhis – Rahul, Sonia, Priyanka
Image Credit: ANI/PTI

PK, as Kishor is universally called, has lost some of his political swagger as the Congress leadership has him running rings to join the party. Previously, the Gandhi family was happy to give her a lot of leeway in her desire to makeover the party. Now this window seems to close.

This time around, all the outreach has been done by an almost desperate PK to the Gandhi family as his other political bosses including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee are disenchanted with him.

Senior sources say the PK had a meeting with Amit Shah, Union Home Minister and BJP election strategist and that Shah remained unmoved by the hard sell of the PK.

A distrustful Congress

Congress leaders are extremely suspicious of PK due to his track record of electing candidate Modi as Prime Minister of India in 2014. PK has come up with projects such as “Chai pei charcha” .

Clearly envisioning a top role in the Modi team, PK ran into Shah who simply blocked him. PK then claimed he had no ideology and proved it by working with leaders like Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal, Jaganmohan Reddy, Mamata Banerjee and even Congress – for the disaster that was the Congress campaign for UP in 2017.

Top congress leaders are now pointing to this track record of working with the AAP, TMC and TRS and asking the Gandhi family some tough questions about PK being a Trojan horse. Always enthusiastic about Modi in his media interviews, PK seems desperate to be a political player.

He briefly joined Kumar’s Janata Dal but was expelled by Kumar within months. As a farewell, Kumar said that Shah asked him to take PK to the party. This troubling recommendation had a huge effect on PK’s credibility and credentials.

Political ambition

Today, having almost cut ties with most of the opposition parties, the KP is in a hurry to join the Congress. Senior Congress leaders told me that Sonia Gandhi was alarmed by some of PK’s plans and prescriptions to revive Congress and the outsized role it had imagined.

The only member of the Gandhi family excited about PK’s entry is Priyanka Gandhi, who has kept an open line with him. “Radical surgery can save the patient but render him useless for life. Yes, we need a radical makeover but, a man who has worked to decimate us. How do we believe his intentions? said a very senior congressional official bitingly.

In his eagerness to join Congress, PK even publicly insulted Rahul Gandhi in a tweet. Gandhi seems ready to forgive and forget this episode.

“Why should we provide PK with a lifeboat when he appears to be drowning in politics after his fallout with Banerjee,” a congressional leader asks. The KP is publicly associated with several senior opposition leaders who are opponents of the Congress at the regional level. Members of Congress say that makes his association untenable for the party.

PK’s political ambitions and his image as a man in a hurry to achieve his ambitions put Congress on hold. PK was told he could join Congress, but his overall plan currently has few takers.

It’s not just the big battle of 2024 that PK will have to deal with. The ace strategist will work for Congress in every state election, starting with Gujarat. So does PK have a strategy to win Congress? Currently, they are auditioning him.

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