Updated: April 22, 2022 5:24:57 pm
ELECTION strategist Prashant Kishor had reportedly proposed to the Congress leadership last year that a non-Gandhi as party president would have a “high” impact although the “viability” of such an option is “difficult”. This is as per a 85-page presentation that did the rounds on social media Thursday amid a renewed round of talks between Kishor and the Congress leadership on a revival roadmap for the party.
When contacted, Kishor told The Indian Express that it was “an old/fake presentation (and) has nothing to do with the ongoing discussion.”
The Congress officially did not comment on it. A party leader, on condition of anonymity, said: “We have not seen any such presentation.” Another leader said “it can either be old or fake, it cannot be both.”
Invoking Nataraja and what it calls its symbols of creation, protection, liberation, destruction, concealment and connection, the presentation suggests that the party should adopt these six foundational resolves to reinvent itself.
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Besides, it should take five “strategic decisions”: fix the leadership issue; solve the alliance conundrum; reclaim the party’s founding tenets; create an army of grassroots leaders and foot-soldiers; and an ecosystem of supportive media and digital propagation.
A senior leader told The Indian Express that this was a presentation Kishor had made to the Congress leadership last year and his current one is a version of this “with many additions and some deletions”.Sources said it does not have “anything like a non-Gandhi as party president.”
Many Congress leaders, however, said Kishor had, in private conversations, pitched the idea of a non-Gandhi as Congress president and Rahul Gandhi as leader of the party in Lok Sabha.
The old presentation underlines how the Congress has been in “perpetual decline” since 1985 with its vote share in the Lok Sabha elections dipping since then. It identifies four reasons for the party’s decline: natural disadvantage of being a legacy incumbent; four periods of organised mass dissent (JP movement, Bofors scandal and its aftermath, Mandal agitation and Ram Temple movements and the India Against Corruption and rise of Modi); failure to capitalise on legacy and achievements and structural weaknesses and lack of connect with the masses.
It says how the Congress has a “jaded and aged leadership” and has not undertaken a structured pan-India membership drive in the last 25 years. Only 23 out of the 118 of the central leadership are elected; only two of the 66 CWC members are under 45.
And as high as 72 per cent of the existing AICC delegates, district and block Presidents, are second or third-generation Congress leaders.
The party, it says, has not conducted a nationwide protest or agitation that has lasted for more than 24 hours since 2014. The last mass public outreach campaign was the Bharat Yatra undertaken by Rajiv Gandhi in 1990.
To fix the leadership issue, the presentation suggests two models. The “preferred roles” is continuation of Sonia Gandhi as party president, Rahul Gandhi as leader of the Parliamentary Board, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as general secretary coordination, a non-Gandhi as working or vice president and an “erstwhile” Congress leader as UPA chairperson.
It says this model will have “medium” impact but has “moderate” viability. Incidentally, revival of the Parliamentary Board is one of the key demands of the G-23 leaders. It is interesting that calls for a non-Congress leader as UPA chairperson have been repeatedly made by some of the Opposition parties including the Shiv Sena.
The alternative model, the presentation suggests, is a non-Gandhi as Congress president, Sonia as UPA chairperson, Rahul as leader of the Parliamentary Board and Priyanka as general secretary coordination. This model, it says, will have a “high” impact. It says Rahul as head of the Parliamentary party can effectively represent the voice of the people both in Parliament and outside and pitch him against Modi.
As for alliances, the presentation says that the Congress going solo will have low electoral success but will have high future impact. It, however, prefers a Congress plus model where the party contests in 70 to 75 percent of the Lok Sabha seats and forges strategic regional alliances with the NCP in Maharashtra, YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu and JMM in Jharkhand.
Meanwhile, Kishor’s entry into the Congress remains in the realm of possibility. “If he joins the Congress, the IPAC (Indian Political Action Committee, the firm Kishor set up) cannot work with any other party. They already have entered into many commitments including with YSRCP and TRS. So, he has to take a call. He has to address those contradictions. The Congress is willing to induct him,” a senior leader said.
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