Skip to main content

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay* 

The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party.
News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all.
He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew.
It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They have big issues with the Gandhis, but have never threatened to quit the party just because the leadership has not conceded their demands on a here-and-now basis.
It is evident the G-23 are not “gomashtas” (middlemen) but politicians who feel bound by a common ideological thread and imagination even if they might fight with the party leadership on organisational and political issues. Nevertheless, in the present context, while inner-party disagreements and debates might abound on organisational matters or economic ideology, there is consensus on the most important metric- the combating of communal ideas, politics, and policies. Kishor does not shine on this count.
He has shown himself to be completely eclectic. His first client was Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2011. The poll strategist also planned the marketing and advertising for the Modi campaign when Modi successfully ran for Prime Minister. He is credited with conceiving the aspirant’s 3D rallies and the social media campaign highlighting good governance since the client had to be rescued from any association with the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat on the then CM’s watch which had drawn worldwide condemnation.
After that big success, Kishor has been in demand. A range of political parties have evidently benefited from his counsel. These were generally local ruling parties. It is up for speculation if the consultant would have brought the bacon home for Trinamool Congress if the West Bengal party had been in the opposition. It is known that associating with Kumar in 2017 failed to revive the Congress Party in UP.
The trouble is the Congress learnt little from that experience and once again sought to flirt with the election consultant. This was doubtless a sign of draining out emotionally after suffering defeat upon defeat in state elections. So, it should cause no surprise if Kishor once again comes calling at the drop of a small hint. That is how fragile or fickle the Congress appears to have become in its present avatara.
The party forgets all too often that though it is greatly reduced, it is demonstrated to have some 12 crore committed voters who have persisted in their choice through thick and thin. This is probably more than the numbers commanded by the principal regional parties put together, or thereabouts. Of course, support for Congress is spread very unevenly in the country.
Generally, that does not give the party sufficient heft to ensure victory at the constituency level even for reasonably good candidates. What should the ground tactics be in such a situation? Is an external agent in the shape of a campaign specialist needed to solve the problem? Indeed, is the solution a mystery when Congress ranks are filled with warhorses at every level who have a well-earned reputation for commanding a trick or two in all seasons?
If the Congress still coheres in the Modi era when large parts of India are enveloped in the ideology of majority communalism, as daily events and election results lately show, the party cannot but have genetic resources that the leadership would do well to tap. That the leadership has failed to do so is the Congress’s primary weakness, and this is from where the first idea of reform needs to emanate.
Nevertheless, not fully grasping this, the leadership in its current state of perceived infirmity, could just seek the hand of God in an outside agent and turn to Kishor yet again. But God is said to help only those who help themselves. If such is the case, and an outsider is permitted entry on terms, then failure may be said to be pre-ordained, as in UP in 2017. Congress will come out of it shaken and tarred, and the consultant is apt to lose his image built on the strength of advising winning parties. Both sides should resist the charms of such an alignment.
Partly because a modicum of the democracy ideology and good sense still inhabit the Congress, and partly under high-pitched pressure mounted by G-23, otherwise a long-spent force that once fattened on patronage from the Gandhis, the Congress happens to be in the middle of an organizational election after decades. This was before Kishor entered the picture. Interestingly, the consultant too has reportedly advised organisation polls as a means to fight stasis within. In that case, what’s so special about external counsel?
As for Kishor, he has successfully counselled only one-woman/one-woman parties. When Modi had hired him, BJP too had become a one-man show, which it remains to this day.
The Congress, in contrast, is not a single-person party, despite appearances. In fact, it is a maze, a labyrinthine entity, in which multiple interests and groups operate, sweetly cutting one another even when in the opposition. That indeed is one of its charms. The Congress is like no other party in the country and the Gandhis do not control it, although they may be its most important inner spirit. But that could change if the country is at an inflexion point.
Jamnalal Bajaj, a major industrialist, had renounced the British title of Rai Bahadur to be a member of the Congress. In time he became an elected member of the party’s Working Committee. Businessmen today seek short-cuts. The Congress too looks guilty of that.
---
*Senior Delhi-based journalist. A version of this article first appeared in the Asian Age

Comments

TRENDING

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Indians witnessing 'regression to Hindutva politics' under Modi ahead of elections

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The forthcoming general election in India, scheduled from April 19, 2024, to June 1, 2024, to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha and the new Government of India, carries immense significance for the preservation of India's identity as a liberal, secular, and constitutional democracy.

Why am I exhorting citizens for a satyagrah to force ECI to 'at least rethink' on EVM

By Sandeep Pandey*   As election fever rises and political parties get busy with campaigning, one issue which refuses to die even after elections have been declared is that of Electronic Voting Machine and the accompanying Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail.