Political strategist Prashant Kishor has been working hard these days. Recently, he not only held long meetings with the head of the Nationalist Congress Party, Sharad Pawar, but also with former Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Kishor has been granted a rank and facility commensurate with that of a cabinet minister after being appointed Senior Advisor to Captain Amarinder Singh of the Punjab CM.
Recently, when he met with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi in New Delhi, it was believed that the focus of the discussion would be around the crisis within the Congress in Punjab, but that was not the case. The meeting discussed the possibility of fighting together against the BJP in 2024. However, the task is not easy.
Unfortunately, Kishor and Congress have yet to emerge as a winning combination in major elections. Kishor worked for Modi until 2014 and then split up to join Nitish Kumar, who was then with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. He then worked for Captain Amarinder Singh in 2017 for the Punjab polls and Akhilesh Yadav for the Uttar Pradesh and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy polls during the 2019 Andhra Pradesh elections. After that, Kishor worked for Mamata Banerjee before meeting with Captain Singh.
A closer look at his political affiliations shows that the polls he was successful in after 2014 were largely due to popular regional faces. As in Bihar, JD (U) from Nitish Kumar and RJD from Lalu together with Congress created a formidable alliance that blocked BJP’s path to power. In Punjab, it was anti-incumbent against the SAD-BJP rule and then the popularity of Captain Singh that paved the way for the congressional government. The same thing happened in Andhra Pradesh. In Uttar Pradesh, where Kishor worked for the Akhilesh-Rahul alliance, the BJP managed to sweep the ballot boxes without even projecting a CM face. Officially, it was Kishor’s first political defeat. On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee was once again a strong and popular regional leader. It also shows that Prashant Kishor is selective in choosing his political partners where he gives preference to the side that has the best chance of winning the election.
Simply put, a successful combination of Kishor and the National Congress has yet to take shape.
While Prashant Kishor has argued that Congress should be the lynchpin of any Opposition alliance aimed at defeating the BJP, a consensus between regional parties and Congress appears to be far from materializing in the near future despite strong push from Mamata. Banerjee and Sharad Pawar.
While Congress has reserved the presidency of its party for the Gandhi family, it also wants to see Rahul Gandhi as prime minister. Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray have had the same ambition. In such a scenario, when there are many applicants for a single position, it is always difficult to reach a consensus when candidates have to select one of their own.
Notably, according to the India Today-Karvy Insights Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey conducted last year, Prime Minister Modi was the first choice as the country’s next prime minister with around 66 percent of people voting for him, while Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s rating remained at 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Although PM Modi’s ratings fell after the second wave of COVID-19 this year, there was no significant increase in Gandhi’s ratings, making it difficult to put a face on the united opposition.
Whatever Kishor’s plan for his second inning, his success in the 2024 polls will depend on whether the Gandhis are willing to take a backseat in the interest of defeating the BJP.