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Prashant Kishor likely to join Congress as ‘advisor’, with eye on 2024 elections

At Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s residence, the political strategist met a group of leaders including Rahul Gandhi, K.C. Venugopal. Party will form committee to study his presentation.

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New Delhi: Amidst talks of his joining the Congress party as “advisor”, political strategist Prashant Kishor met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence Saturday. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were also present at the meeting.

During the course of their discussion, Mrs Gandhi called an emergency meeting of senior party leaders, who thereafter were also a part of the discussion between Kishor and the Gandhis. Leaders in attendance included K.C. Venugopal, Ambika Soni, Digvijaya Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken.

In the meeting, that lasted more than three hours, Kishor gave a detailed presentation on the road ahead for the Congress, according to party leader Venugopal.

The Congress is looking to have Kishor join the party as an “advisor” and take charge of the party’s strategy for upcoming elections — beginning with the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections scheduled for the end of the year — ThePrint has learnt. However, both Kishor and the Congress are looking at an association with the larger picture of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in mind.

Speaking to ThePrint, Venugopal, a Rajya Sabha MP and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary, said, “Now, the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) will form a committee to go into details of the presentation. Following which, a report has to be made by the appointed committee on the details of the presentation, and then on the basis of that report another discussion will be held.”

“Mrs Gandhi will announce the formation of the committee and who will be part of it by today,” he added. 

Although Venugopal didn’t discuss the details, according to reports, Kishor presented a roadmap for the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and was asked to join the party. However, some in the Congress reportedly said that his pitch was only for the Gujarat Assembly polls, to be held later this year. 

ThePrint tried contacting Kishor via phone calls and text messages, but had not received a response by the time this report was published. This report will be updated when he responds. 

‘Advisor, Not Consultant’

Sources in the Congress party aware of the developments told ThePrint that Kishor’s meeting was primarily to have a conversation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

“He attended the meeting at the behest of Rahul Gandhi, who has almost made up his mind and agreed to his induction in the party. However, Sonia ji is still apprehensive, which is why the meeting was scheduled. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also present at the meeting. During the course of the meeting Dr Raghu Sharma (Congress in-charge for Gujarat), K.C. Venugopal and other senior leaders also joined,” said a source.

“The idea right now is to have him join the party as an ‘advisor’, who will be in-charge of elections, starting with the one in Gujarat. But both the party and Kishor are looking at a longer plan for 2024 Lok Sabha,” added the source.

Party sources also said that Kishor will most likely not be immediately given a political post in the party, such as that of general secretary or state in-charge.

“He will be joining as a leader and we’ve been told by the leadership that he will be an ‘advisor’, that’s all. He may get a political position after Gujarat or later, sometime before 2024. But that is a decision that will be taken then,” said a second source.

If the details are worked out, Kishor is likely to join the party soon, but a “trust factor”, especially amongst some senior leaders, is why the induction is taking time, the source added.

PK’s tryst with Congress

Kishor’s tryst with the Congress is not new. Following the West Bengal Assembly polls last year, where he had helped the Trinamool Congress score a thumping victory, he was in talks with the Congress for nearly five months. He had a series of discussions with the Gandhi siblings that ultimately fell through. 

“The maximum number of hours I have spent post-Bengal results was when I was talking with Congress. Almost five months, I have given every minute of mine between May and September,” he had said earlier this year. 

He has also publicly criticised the party, saying that although the Congress was vital for a strong opposition, its leadership was not the divine right of any individual.

“Coming together required a leap of faith from both sides, and for various reasons we could not take that leap of faith. For example, on my side, I had a bad experience working with them on UP (2017 elections). And hence I was very sceptical. I did not want to have my hands tied,” Kishor had said in an earlier interview. 

Kishor had worked with the Congress for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, when the party faced a big defeat. It was part of an alliance with the Samajwadi Party and others, the ‘Mahagathbandhan’. However, the Congress was able to secure only 6 per cent of the votes. 

Series of victories, and a defeat

Kishor has not faced many defeats in his career as a political strategist. In 2014, he had teamed up with then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and helped him to victory in the Lok Sabha elections. 

He then formed the political consultancy group I-PAC (Indian Political Action Committee) which worked with the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar and helped Nitish Kumar secure a third term as chief minister in 2015. In 2016, Kishor was hired by the Congress for the 2017 Punjab elections, which it won under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh.

At the time, Singh had tweeted: “PK & his team and their work was absolutely critical to our victory in Punjab!”

Kishor has also helped Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to victory in 2020, helped Y.S Jagan Mohan Reddy unseat Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, and helped M.K. Stalin become chief minister of Tamil Nadu in the 2021 state elections.

Close to the Trinamool Congress leadership after the 2021 victory in Bengal, Kishor and IPAC were at the forefront of the party’s campaign to open its account in Goa in this year’s Assembly polls — but it ended up scoring a duck, sparking criticism against Kishor from within the party.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)


Also read: ‘Saheb knows this’, Prashant Kishor objects as Modi enjoys victory lap in poll-bound Gujarat


 

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