The Congress needs ‘leadership and collective will’ to fix deep-rooted structural problems through transformational reforms, master strategist Prashant Kishor said Tuesday after rejecting the GOP’s offer of membership ahead of critical polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year. Confirmation that PK would not join – ending weeks of feverish ‘will he, won’t he’ speculation – was delivered by spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who said politely the party ‘appreciate his efforts’.
“I declined generous offer of Congress to join the party as part of Empowered Action Group (EAG) and take responsibility for elections. In my humble opinion, more than me party needs leadership and collective will to fix deep-rooted structural problems through transformational reforms,” Kishor tweeted.
The phrase ‘deep-rooted structural problems’ is significant here because that is what he referred to in October last year after the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. Many saw the death of four farmers, and the anger it generated, as indication the ruling BJP would be ousted in the then-forthcoming polls.
PK’s tweet warned: “People looking for a quick, spontaneous revival of GOP led opposition based on #LakhimpurKheri incident are setting themselves up for a big disappointment. Unfortunately there are no quick fix solutions to the deep-rooted problems and structural weakness…”
The Congress – which used the events of Lakhimpur Kheri to attack the BJP and chief minister Yogi Adityanath – slumped to defeat in the February-March election. The BJP was re-elected. The Congress was also routed in Manipur and Uttarakhand, edged out in Goa and lost power in Punjab.
The defeats prompted the usual talk of soul-searching and renewed talk of PK joining.
He held several meetings with senior Congress leaders over the past two weeks and submitted detailed proposals to revamp its functioning, but membership, it seems, was a step too far.
“Following a presentation and discussions with Prashant Kishor, Congress president has constituted an Empowered Action Group 2024 and invited him to join the party as part of the group with defined responsibility. He declined. We appreciate his efforts and suggestion given to party,” Surjewala said.
News agency PTI cited sources as saying the reason he decided not to join the Congress was the pact signed by I-PAC, the political consultancy group he founded, with Telangan’s ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which was reportedly viewed by the Congress leadership as conflict of interest.
Telangana votes next year.
Kishor was believed to be keen on joining the Congress, but wanted to do so without any expectations, PTI also said.
Credited with an impressive string of poll victories – including the campaign that got Narendra Modi elected as prime minister in 2014 and last year’s Bengal election in which he helped Trinamool boss Mamata Banerjee defeat Modi – Kishor had been widely talked up as perhaps the man who can help an ailing Congress mount a serious challenge to the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
With input from PTI