Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, whom the Congress Party is eyeing to help it emerge from political oblivion, has asked the Congress leadership to elect a non-Gandhi as the party president. He proposed that the three key positions of UPA Chairman, Parliamentary Board Chief, and General Secretary Coordination be reserved for the Gandhis, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Kishor suggested forming a shadow Cabinet of 20-25 experienced and new politicians, as well as a brain trust of 10-12 SMEs and global authorities, in his presentation to Congress leadership, “to effectively represent the voice of the people both in Parliament and outside.” This, he claimed, would go a long way toward combating “elected autocracy” with “collective credibility.”
According to the strategist, “traditional media is heavily biased towards the ruling party,” and “the current dispensation’s vast network combines the resources of government and party to maintain news stranglehold.”
Poll strategist Prashant Kishor calls out Congress party’s sense of entitlement and sycophancy
He also claimed that the “timing and choice of propagation for INC is lopsided and not driven by data or science.”
Kishor proposed establishing, “a network of ideologically inclined digital supporters divided into 543 digital zones, each with an ecosystem of approximately five lakh digitally connected people”.
Kishor stated that the party should not give tickets or organisational positions to those accused of heinous crimes and that the one-man-one-post principle should be strictly followed. He slammed the party’s “jaded and aged leadership,” saying they had “complete disconnect with the grassroots” and the party had “ceased working as a democratic organisation” under them.
He emphasised the Congress party’s sense of entitlement and sycophancy, claiming that only 23 of the party’s 118 central leaders are elected.
Kishor, without his mincing words, pointed out how the Congress leadership does not appear to be aligned in terms of goals, strategy, method, approach, tactics, and the path forward, leading to a lack of unity, at times confusion, and impasse.
He presented some jarring figures illustrating the party’s “perpetual decline since 1985.” The statistics demonstrated a steady decline in vote share and the number of seats won by Congress in Parliament and state legislatures.
When competing directly with the BJP, the Congress has performed miserably: Prashant Kishor shares insight
Prashant Kishor elucidated how the Congress party has performed particularly badly when it has been in direct competition with the BJP. In 2019, Congress lost 92% of Lok Sabha seats where it was in direct contest with the BJP, compared to 90% of similar seats in 2014, remarked Kishor.
He cited three plausible causes for the party’s electoral decline: the natural disadvantage of being a legacy incumbent; four periods of organised mass dissent; and a failure to capitalise on legacy and achievements.
Going into the history of the Congress’ collapse, he stated that four mass movements – the JP Movement, Bofors, Mandal, Ram Mandir, and the rise of Modi and India Against Corruption – harmed the party’s prospects and caused a decrease in vote share.
He criticised the party for failing to capitalise on its legacy and the accomplishments of its regimes.
The poll strategist remarked how between 1885 and 1998, the party had 61 presidents, whereas between 1998 and 2022, the party had only two presidents (Sonia 21 years and Rahul 2 years). Further delving into the flaws of the Congress party, Prashant Kishor stated that more than 65 per cent of district presidents and 90 per cent of block presidents have never met with the Congress president or the AICC secretary.
He stated that the party needs to “preserve its soul” and “create a new body”.
Congress leaders divided on the induction of the poll strategist into the party
Notably, the aforementioned suggestions were made by Prashant Kishor during a three-hour presentation at Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence on April 16.
According to reports, key Congress leaders gathered at the house of party president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday and have reportedly discussed the strategy for the next Assembly elections as well as the brainstorming session that the party is intending to host to create measures for the party’s recovery.
The meeting was attended by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, General secretary Priyanka Gandhi, and senior leaders AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Mallikarjun Kharge, Digvijay Singh, Mukul Wasnik, KC Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh and Ajay Maken, besides the Congress president.
After the presentation, Sonia Gandhi asked the leaders about their opinion on the presentation. She also formed a three-member committee comprising party veterans AK Antony, Ambika Soni and Mallikarjun Kharge to examine election strategist Prashant Kishor’s strategy paper for contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
As per reports, senior party leaders Digvijay Singh and AK Antony were not quite impressed by Prashant Kishor’s proposal. Digvijay stated that this is exactly what the party declared after its last two chintan shivirs in Pachmarhi and Shimla. Most of the points raised in the plan, according to Antony, were identical to those raised in his report following the party’s defeat in 2014.
The two leaders also suggested that Kishor should not be made an office-bearer or senior party leader as that would “create chaos” in the ranks, the person added.
Some sources in Congress revealed that some senior leaders are of the opinion that before entrusting Prashant Kishor with complete responsibility for strategizing the 2024 general elections, he should be challenged to demonstrate the effectiveness of his strategy in the upcoming state elections.
“Elections are due in over a dozen states before the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Congress holds a little over 400 seats out of the 1500 plus seats in these states. Let him first help the party improve its tally in these states before taking a big bite,” a senior Congress leader was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Hindustan Times reported that while some prominent leaders are sceptical about Kishor’s appointment, others, like former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath, have welcomed his appointment. To accommodate Kishor, Nath even proposed a new position of general secretary (strategy).
Prashant Kishor says he can not work with several layers of hierarchy
During his talks with senior leadership, Kishor stated that he could not operate with multiple layers of hierarchy and preferred to report directly to the Congress President. This has proven to be a source of friction for many of the senior officials who have been close to the Gandhi family.
Given the opposition to the title of “general secretary,” some other members of the party proposed that Kishor be appointed as an adviser to Sonia Gandhi.
Interestingly, Prashant Kishor’s induction into the party fold has also been supported by Gandhi scion Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her brother Rahul Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is said to have told senior party leaders, “everyone has tried and failed. He wants to do something new, so we should give him a chance”.
Notably, in 2021, there had been frequent talk that election strategist Kishor would become a full-fledged member of Congress. According to many reports, Kishor sent out feelers about working for the party as a member in May 2021, after the results of the West Bengal assembly elections were known.
Prashant Kishor stated in December 2021 that he had been in contact with the Congress leadership for the preceding two years, but that after the Bengal election, the relationship became much more planned and focused. He stated that he was on the verge of joining the party, but decided against it since he understood that working together would be unproductive for both sides owing to several concerns. He did not, however, address the concerns that prevented him from joining the Congress party.
In the recent assembly elections in five states, Congress performed faired extremely poorly winning only a handful of seats in all states. They even lost deposits on 97 per cent of the seats in Uttar Pradesh that were up for election. Since then, Congress has been working tirelessly to act in a way that will result in the party’s revival at whatever cost.