Rumbling grows within UP Congress over Prashant Kishor, Punjab hears an echo too

While Kishor is keen that Priyanka campaign extensively and aggressively, sources said the party leadership is not completely on board on this.

Written by Manoj C G , Kanchan Vasdev | New Delhi/chandigarh | Updated: November 4, 2016 7:47 am
prashant kishor, priyanka gandhi, pranab mukherjee, narendra modi, abdul basit, samajwadi party, pinarayi vijayan, india news Prashant Kishor. (File)

FAULT lines are emerging within the Congress over its election campaign management in Uttar Pradesh with the faction arrayed against strategist Prashant Kishor gaining some ground. This intra-party tension, some leaders said, is finding an echo in Punjab, too.


A senior leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Indian Express that he would not be surprised if Kishor and the Congress part ways sooner rather than later despite his perceived good equations with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Sources said Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh is also not happy with Kishor and has shared his reservations with leaders close to him.

One key difference in views is regarding the campaign plan of Priyanka in Uttar Pradesh. While Kishor is keen that Priyanka campaign extensively and aggressively, sources said the party leadership is not completely on board on this.

In Punjab, sources said the working style of Captain and Kishor are not exactly in sync. Party leaders said the differences deepened last month to the extent that they affected the Congress’s Rahul Sandesh Yatra which is currently on in Uttar Pradesh. The yatras, which were a follow up to Rahul’s kisan yatra, had started on October 15. “We did not get the improvised vehicles for the Rahul Sandesh Yatra on time last month. 75 vehicles were to travel to 75 districts from October 15 and the vehicles did not come. We had announced the programme and were not in a position to cancel because it could have sent a wrong message. We were forced to use other vehicles.

The improvised vehicles started arriving only from October 19 and 20,” said a leader from Uttar Pradesh who is part of the campaign. What has also rankled many in the Congress is Kishor’s meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh earlier this week. Senior leaders said he did not have the party’s mandate to hold talks with Samajwadi Party leaders — a meeting which signalled that the Congress is “desperate” to ally with the SP despite having announced a chief ministerial candidate.

One senior leader, significantly, admitted that the party may not do well in UP and argued Kishor could also be looking for an exit route. The leader, who did not want to be named, said that the family feud in the Samajwadi Party and the Army’s surgical strikes are the critical new factors in the campaign. “A four-cornered contest would have helped the Congress. But the Samajwadi Party is in a bad shape now. Without a four-cornered contest, the Congress may not able to gain much. And it seems Kishor is worried that a poor performance could affect his record,” he said.

Although Kishor has not faced the same level of opposition from within the Congress in Punjab as in UP, there have been some murmurs of resentment against the manner in which his team took over PPCC chief Amarinder Singh’s campaign. Recently, Amarinder and Kishor fell out over Kishor’s meeting with expelled Congressmen Jagmeet Brar and Bir Devinder Singh. “Who is Prashant Kishor to go and meet them?” Amarinder had said at the time. “He should not exceed his brief”. There were also questions about his meeting with Navjot Singh Sidhu.

But the two managed to resolve their differences and have been working together closely again. Kishor’s IPAC managed Amarinder’s three-day Kisan Yatra, and before that, his Halqe Vich Captain, and Coffee with Captain. When asked if any change in Kishor’s UP brief could have an effect in Punjab, Asha Kumari, Congress general secretary in charge of Punjab, said: “Congress is a national party. If they hire or fire an agency in UP, they will do the same for Punjab…If AICC wants to keep someone or not keep that person, unke karyakshetra mey aata hai.”

Kumari said she had not heard anything from AICC that changed Kishor’s status in Punjab for now. “I have no information from either UP Congress or AICC, but of course we are watching what is happening in UP, that he went to talk to A or B,” she said. “Kisi aur State key baarey mey bolna mushkil hota hai”.

“His performance was satisfactory,” said Asha Kumari. Asked why she was referring to him in the past tense, she clarified that she meant “so far”. “For example, today we had a press conference and the chairs were organised by his team. His team gets things ready and well laid out. We do not have to pull out our workers from the field. They can concentrate on the campaign,” she said.

There is a section in the party that’s nervous that if Kishor were to quit his role as strategist, it would send a message to voters that the Congress wasn’t exactly on the winning side. Some others said that even if he quit the party’s poll team in UP, he could continue in Punjab since the “situation for the Congress in this state is better.”

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  1. P
    Pramod parate
    Nov 6, 2016 at 4:25 am
    mahagatbandhan win the up elction
    1. V
      Nov 4, 2016 at 5:25 am
      What happened Mr. Prashant Kishor? Why are you looking for an exit from UP? You credited himself of Mr. Modi's victory in 2014 and also Nitish victory in Bihar? Must have ran out of ideas or luck this time.
      1. M
        Nov 4, 2016 at 4:10 am
        My comment is under moderation because it analysis the dielima of the congress party which is facing extinction due to its wrong policiesandloot of countryandimmaturish policies of raol,its prime ministerial candidate.See what this raol has been doing .Playing politics on the dead body of an ex soldier who committed suicideandannoying the armed forces .The enemy is at the gate of the country andyou are calling names to the PM.What his party has done in 43 yrs.It didnot do anything.Now to find fault with the present Govt which has granted OROP,is nothing but foolishness.You know the poor condition of congress.Recently it was ousted from power in am.Tomorrow it is going to be Uttara Khand/H.P as the moodandrecent surveys suggest.If you want that I should not write the truth,you are well within your right.Donot print it alsoandfeel happy to hide facts.
        1. M
          Nov 4, 2016 at 12:54 pm
          Modiji didnot make any tall promises .Whatever promise he made ,he is fulfilling.He has still 2.5 yrs left to do the job.What about the promises made during 43 yrs of congress rule.Promise GARIBI HATAO.Tell me whether this promise has been fulfilled or the the entire nation mislead to garden path.Clean drinking water.Is it not a matter of national shame that we have not been able to provide safe.clean drinking water to vast sections of society.Housing.Where is the tall boast of providing housing to all?These netas are living in palatial houses while the poor donot have a jhopari.I am 80 yrs old.It pains me to see the sorry state of affairs.The dynasty does not know anything about poverty.It has never ped thru it.Have trust in the present Govt.If it fails throw it out in 2019.
          1. G
            Nov 4, 2016 at 2:57 am
            In digital age, its vital to keep a consultant like Prashant Kishor. For good 60 years, congressmen won elections on his name, they have become parasite. Prashant must be making them work hard.
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