The target of but (again; unless; otherwise) expressions of a section of the old guard of Congress, which while appreciating what Prashant Kishor (PK) had proposed on January 10 on April 16, created enough doubts in the mind of Sonia Gandhi about Rahul Gandhi’s imminence and it led to the aborting of the stillborn grandiose plan to restructure the Grand Old Party by 2024. PK sought towering heights. He was offered membership in the proposed Empowered Action Group (EAG), in which he was to be one of eight equals. The gap between the opening and the hypothetical recipient ended the GOP’s highly publicized ten-day reincarnation melodrama. Rahul Gandhi, after having attended the slide show of April 16, left for a stay abroad. After the four-hour presentation, AICC Secretary General K. Venugopal gleefully told ANI news agency that PK had prepared a restructuring plan and advised Congress to focus on 370 seats. Over the next ten days, Sonia Gandhi consulted with a host of senior colleagues. Ambika Soni, Jairam Ramesh, P. Chidambaram, Ajay Maken, Mallikarjun Kharge, Kamal Nath would be among those who saw merit. AK Anthony, Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel, Digvijaya Singh enjoyed PK; however, they ran into some ifs and buts over the position of the first family, particularly the projection of Rahul Gandhi as a face against Narendra Modi, should the PK plan be accepted in full. Among his recommendations while accepting the overlordship of the Gandhis, PK had proposed that a non-Gandhi face be appointed as the party’s ‘chief operating officer’. He had also proposed that the UPA be led by someone outside the party, who should be a former member of Congress (read: Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee).
The PK had chastised the party with data showing it fielded 170 candidates in the last three polls, although those candidates blanked on all occasions. He also suggested the one family, one ticket formula. The vested interests saw red. While Rahul Gandhi was abroad, his confidant, Manickam Tagore, AICC’s head of Telangana, questioned in a series of tweets whether the party should trust a “friend of the enemy” person. He was referring to the pact between PK’s I-PAC and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the ruling party in Hyderabad with which the Congress is in direct competition. The abortion was announced in a Tweet by AICC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who offered PK a spot on the EAG and also announced that PK had “declined”. Surjewala expressed appreciation for PK’s “efforts and suggestions”. PK, for its part, thanked Congress for its “generous offer”, which it did not accept, saying that “more than me, the party needs leadership and collective will to solve deep-rooted structural problems through transformational reforms”.
While the strobe lights were focused on PK interactions in New Delhi, TRS in Hyderabad was simultaneously celebrating its 21st anniversary. K. Chandrashekhar Rao displayed his national ambition, while his daughter K. Kavitha, MP for Nizamabad, and his son, KT Ramarao, the incumbent chairman of TRS acknowledging the role of I-PAC, supported the view of their father. KCR appeared to abandon its dream of a “federal front” and said there was no need for a political front in 2024 and announced that “democracy will win”. It has been suggested that TRS rename itself Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti and play a national role. During his visit to New Delhi a fortnight ago, KCR’s presence was announced by TRS, with his portraits and the party’s pink flags displayed at highway roundabouts. DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin also held similar demonstrations last month. Mamata’s TMC, KCR’s TRS and Stalin’s DMK have openly displayed their ambitions in New Delhi. PK tips are available for all three worthies.
In Goa, where PK had advised Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool in state polls (where TMC blanked), the party’s state unit leader, Kiran Kandolkar, who, at PK’s request, had left the Goa Forward Party to join TMC, resigned from the party on 26 April. and blamed PK for the polling debacle. While PK had excelled in advising Mamata Banerjee during the 2021 West Bengal campaign, his advising at TMC in Tripura and Goa thereafter did not yield results. In Goa, on the advice of PK, Mamata inducted a former Congress CM, Luizinho Faleiro and forced a sitting MP to resign to make Faleiro Rajya Sabha a member; in state polls, Faleiro refused to play ball, leaving Mamata red-faced. Now TMC is calling for Faleiro to be asked to step down from the Rajya Sabha seat to make way for a party loyalist.
PK has had a great run working with parties that have a single powerful leader: TMC, DMK, TRS and YSRCP. Nitish Kumar made him vice president of JD(U) but the bonhomie didn’t last long. PK left JD(U) in anger. Talks with Congress began in 2020 – gaining momentum in mid-2021. Recent developments have been heightened by the enthusiasm of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, which Sonia Gandhi initially endorsed. Rahul Gandhi attended the April 16 meeting, but his opinion was not made clear until the time of writing. Tweets by Manickam Tagore and Surjewala, both acolytes of Rahul Gandhi, may indicate the reaction of the infantrymen of 12 Tughlaq Lane.
There are 12 state polls ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The PK was trying to assemble a loose confederation in which the Congress, while focusing on the 220 seats where it directly faces the BJP (the current BJP rate in these seats is 90%) accepts adjustments with regional parties opposed to the NDA. Leaders like P. Chidambaram, in interviews last week, indicated that it is not all over. Chidambaram and AICC’s Head of Data Analytics Praveen Chakravartty praised PK’s analyzes and data. The door may have been closed but the windows are still open. PK’s presentation asked him for a central role in the organizational restructuring of Congress and the management of polls. His insistence on “My way or the highway” did not work. Rahul Gandhi seems to have made his way. For PK, is this the end of the highway? His links with the regional satraps are intact. The possibility that it will be put into service to sew a fit-based link until 2024 cannot be ruled out.