Chandigarh: Election strategist Prashant Kishor has made it clear that he will not be working for the Congress in Punjab for the 2022 assembly elections, despite Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s keenness on it.
Kishor, founder of the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), was credited with planning and executing the Amarinder-led Congress’ strategy in the 2017 elections, which resulted in them coming back to power with a thumping majority.
But Kishor told ThePrint that he would not like to work for the Congress in “bits and pieces”, and said all speculation should be put to rest.
“I have already spoken on the subject and have nothing more to add. I do not wish to work for the Congress in bits and pieces,” Kishor said.
A divided house
The rebuff comes at a time when the Punjab CM is faced with a divided house over Kishor’s involvement. State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and Punjab affairs in-charge Asha Kumari had gone public last week saying that Kishor was not needed for the Punjab election, but Amarinder was rooting for him.
The chief minister had, during a video press conference last Friday, claimed that Kishor had “responded positively” to his request for shaping the strategy for the 2022 assembly polls. “Kishor has said he would be quite happy to come and help,” Amarinder had said, adding that he had discussed the matter with Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, who had left the decision to him.
Amarinder claimed he had also taken his party MLAs into confidence, and 55 of the 80 leaders were in favour of bringing back Kishor to handle the campaign.
However, sources in the party claimed that besides Jakhar and Kumari, a large number of party MLAs, including senior ministers, too did not want Kishor.
“I, along with at least half a dozen MLAs, met the chief minister and told him that bringing in Kishor was not a good idea,” said an MLA who wished not to be named.
Also read: Why ‘winners’ pick Prashant Kishor
The 2017 campaign
The Congress’ 2017 assembly election campaign was designed by Kishor and revolved entirely around Amarinder. The party won 77 seats in the 117 seat assembly and Amarinder had credited Kishor for the success.
In his Friday press conference too, Amarinder reiterated his intention to contest the elections but said the decision on leading the party rested with the Congress president. He said though he had initially termed the 2017 polls as his last election, he had subsequently, on the persuasion of his party colleagues, changed his mind.
Party sources said with Amarinder leading the show, he wanted the 2017 strategy to be repeated by Kishor.
The Sidhu factor
“Although there is no grave challenge to Amarinder’s supremacy of the party in the state, Navjot Sidhu could play a substantially detrimental role against Amarinder if not placated in time,” said a party MLA.
Former cabinet minister Sidhu had resigned from his position in the cabinet after his portfolios were changed by Amarinder following the performance of the party in last year’s parliamentary polls.
While Sidhu has been quiet and lying low ever since, Amarinder has maintained that he is “very much a part of the Congress”. Amarinder said Friday that Sidhu or any other Congress member who had any concerns on any issue could come and talk to him.
Responding to rumours that Kishor was trying to bring in Sidhu to lead the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab, Amarinder said he had talked to Kishor and he had denied that he was in talks with Sidhu or AAP.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal has, however, said that Sidhu is “welcome” in his party.
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