Congress invites PK to become OK. PK says No.
As a last-ditch effort to salvage its sinking ship, Congress wanted to rope in Prashant Kishore, popularly known by his initials PK, to turn around the declining political fortunes of the Congress party.
The media grapevine was abuzz with the news that PK was either joining the Congress to revive it as a political brand or he might be hired as a political consultant and strategist for the 2024 general elections.
The background for this development was the drubbing that the Congress party received in the recently-held assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh.
In Punjab, the Congress failed to save its incumbent government, and, in the other four states, the BJP registered a thumping victory despite experiencing anti-incumbency headwinds.
That victory was attributed to the unassailable popularity of Prime Minister Modi. This had put a question mark on the viability of Congress as a political party, and it was safely concluded that it was facing an existential threat.
Most political pundits believe that Congress, under the tutelage of Rahul Gandhi, has gone comatose and cannot be revived.
The only way out, they believe, is for the Gandhi family to give up the reins of the party to someone else, as the image of Rahul Gandhi as a politician is irreparably damaged. To remedy this problem, Prashant Kishore was being brought in as a panacea for all that ails the Congress today.
Prashant Kishore heads an organization called IPAC (Indian Political Action Committee), which is in the business of political consultancy, helping political parties to chalk out their campaign strategies to win elections.
PK has successfully done this with AAP in Delhi, TMC in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu and Congress in Punjab. It was expected he could do the same with the Congress at the national level.
Last week, PK and the Congress party engaged in very open consultations about the possibility of PK joining the Congress as a full-time member.
PK had made presentations before senior Congress leaders of his plans for the electoral revival of the party.
The presentation, some media houses reported, consisted of almost 600 slides explaining the reasons and the solutions for the problems that beset the Grand Old Party.
There was also a view that this was a symbiotic relationship as Prashant Kishore also needed a political platform to remain relevant as a political strategist after the recent debacle with TMC in the Goa elections.
TMC’s win in West Bengal was primarily due to the Herculean efforts put by Mamata Banerjee rather than any innovative strategy of Prashant Kishore.
The general consensus about PK is that he can deliver only when his client has a positive image and is an established leader as is evident from his success with Narendra Modi in 2014 and Mamata Banerjee in 2021.
On the contrary, he fails miserably when his client is non-winnable or does not have a good image as happened in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election when he was consulting for the Congress and the SP with Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav as the respective leaders.
Prashant Kishore himself is looking for a political role for himself after almost a decade of political consulting. So the Congress-PK merger seemed to be a match made in heaven. But as they say, man proposes but God disposes of it.
Many senior Congressmen are not happy at the prospect of having to cede their authority on party matters to someone completely outside of the party. The fact that he has worked with so many political parties in the past, which are rivals of the Congress is another factor that dissuades them from trusting him with the party completely.
A case in point is Telangana where Congress is contesting against the incumbent TRS government. Very recently, IPAC has signed a deal with TRS to help them in their campaign against Congress in the upcoming Telangana assembly elections. This creates a clear conflict of interest for PK as he cannot be working for Congress while his outfit works for rival TRS in Telangana.
The political landscape has changed completely after the election of 2014, and Hindutva has become a prominent factor in voters deciding whom to vote for. In such a communally charged environment, how can PK resuscitate the Congress whose central political plank till now has been secularism?
The central pivot of PK recommendation for the Congress is a non-Gandhi working president. His entire blueprint hinges on this point. Sonia Gandhi can still continue to be the president of the party.
The working president will be directly reporting to her, but he or she will have all the authority to take decisions regarding the party.
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi will not deal with the nitty gritty of the party at all. Rahul Gandhi was given the position of the head of the parliamentary board. Priyanka Gandhi would head a coordination committee, which would coordinate between the president, the working president and all Congress workers.
The broad contours of PK’s recommendations suggest a non-Gandhi as the Chairperson of the UPA. As far as publicity is concerned, the main plank will be social media and digital platforms as the mainstream media has been completely hijacked by the BJP government.
A separate ecosystem consisting of Twitter, YouTube channels, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp groups and other digital platforms vertically integrated to the media department of the party in every village of the country to propagate its ideological viewpoint and its agenda for the country.
Local stand-up artists who are ideologically aligned with the party to be engaged for reaching out to local folks.
PK has also drawn out a roadmap for a complete overhaul of the Congress organization. The organization is dominated by people who have not won elections. Most of them have either lost elections or have been nominated to the posts.
There will be a “one family one ticket rule” to ensure that people from established Congress families do not get tickets even if they keep losing elections. PK also suggests direct elections for 50% of the office bearers, and he also wants the organization to mirror the country’s demographics.
So, more representatives from women, SC, ST, OBCs and minorities, most of whom should be in their 30s or 40s. Congress needs to garner 45% of the vote share to come to power, which amounts to around 30 crore votes.
The majority of these votes are going to come from the minorities, SC and ST communities. The rest will come from the very poor, poor and lower-middle class. Congress cannot get many votes from high-income groups. PK identified some catchment groups from which Congress could expect to get a significant chunk of votes. They included women, landless laborers and farmers, unemployed youth and urban poor.
The outreach program that he outlined entailed a lot of capital investment which the Congress is currently not in a position to make as it has been out of power for over a decade now.
PK’s insistence on a non-Gandhi working president as well as Priyanka Gandhi as AICC president did not go down well with the Congress leadership. This was the primary reason because of why the deal did not work out.
Everything is back to square one. Both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are out of the country, and Congress seems to be like a radar-less ship in the middle of an ocean unable to decide which direction to go.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma