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Party to party, Prashant Kishor, the man in a hurry

Prashant Kishor a.k.a PK has covered a long distance in Indian politics in the last eight years. But unpredictability, or rather inconsistency, driven by ambition has been his hallmark

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: April 23, 2022 9:34:31 pm
Political strategist Prashant Kishor. (File)

From playing a key role in Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, to taking a political plunge four years later by joining the JD(U) and leaving it in a huff, to negotiating with the Congress for an entry now, Prashant Kishor a.k.a PK has covered a long distance in Indian politics in the last eight years.

But unpredictability, or rather inconsistency, driven by ambition has been his hallmark. And many political leaders who have engaged with the sharp tactician in the last eight years can vouch for that. Some say he is full of contradictions.

Prashant Kishor’s Congress saga is a case in point; it took another twist on Thursday as a presentation he had reportedly made for the party last year where he suggested a non-Gandhi president was leaked.

On Friday, Kishor had a one-on-one meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Sources in the party said it was ready to induct him and he was also open to the idea. He could join in the next two weeks, sources said.

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In May 2021, Kishor had his first serious set of talks with the Congress. He met Congress president Sonia Gandhi even while he and his political consultancy firm I-PAC were working with the Congress’s rival Trinamool Congress in the West Bengal Assembly polls. He gave her a presentation a month later on how to revive the Congress. The Gandhis engaged with him and both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi met him in July.

But around the same time, Kishor also met NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, and if sources in the NCP are to be believed, suggested a grand plan — merger of the NCP and Trinamool Congress. He is said to have promised the NCP that he could get several “disgruntled” leaders from the Congress and some from the BJP, including two Lok Sabha MPs, to the new entity, which could replace the Congress and pose a challenge to the BJP and Narendra Modi.

“I don’t know how he is now discussing with the Congress a plan for its revival. He had shared with us some other plans,” an NCP leader said.

Meanwhile, at that time, his talks with the Congress did not fructify. Neither did his NCP-TMC merger idea.

Soon, Kishor publicly turned against the Gandhis. He was also said to be behind the increasingly vocal idea that a non-Congress leader take over as UPA chairperson. Sonia Gandhi currently heads it.

Prashant Kishore with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee at Rajbhavan Kolkata during the oath taking ceremony of Bengal government last year. (Express File Photo)

After signing up with the TMC for the 2022 Goa Assembly elections – a state where the Congress had deep stakes – Prashant Kishor tweeted in December last year that leadership of the Opposition was not “the divine right of an individual, especially when the party has lost more than 90 per cent elections in the last 10 years”. Let Opposition leadership be decided “democratically”, he said.

The disastrous Goa foray of the TMC was another turning point in the career of Kishor. His role in designing the party’s campaign and hyping up its chances there soon came under question, even in a party where Mamata Banerjee’s writ reigns supreme.

It was against this background that Kishor reopened talks with the Congress, the bad blood of last year apparently forgotten.

Kishor is also said to be keen on joining the Congress – a point that remained unresolved last time too. Apart from working out a role for him in the grand old party with its traditional set ways, there are other issues with this. Kishor’s firm I-PAC has lucrative contracts as of now with the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and the TRS in Telangana – both states where the Congress continues to have some presence.

Prashant kishor, JDU more seats than BJP, Nitish Kumar, Sushil Kumar Modi, RCP Singh, citizenship amendment act, NRC, NPR, Bihar news, indian express Prashant Kishor with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. (Express file photo)

 

Kishor is also said to nurse hopes of launching a political outfit in Bihar. His joining the JD(U) was a way of testing the waters.

Were Prashant Kishor to join the Congress, I-PAC working for its rivals would give rise to conflict of interest. It is interesting in this context that the Congress has cleverly made it public that it is engaging with him, unlike when it held talks with other election consultants. In an interaction with the media last week, AICC general secretary in-charge of organisation K C Venugopal said: “Prashant Kishor has made a detailed presentation for the 2024 election strategy. It needs some detailed discussions and the Congress president will set up a small group to talk about this entire presentation. That group will submit a report within a week’s time for a final decision.”

Some voices considered close to the high command have also talked favourably of Kishor joining the Congress. Other party leaders also say there is no hurdle in his joining the party, despite huge reservations from a section who fear they will be left redundant in this new direction the Congress is taking.

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