New Delhi: Election strategist Prashant Kishor has categorically rejected the Congress offer to join up as part of its “Empowered Action Group”, bringing to an end the months-long negotiations to rejuvenate the grand old party. Sources indicated that the 137-year-old party refused to give him a free hand, despite internally agreeing that they need a fresh face and transformational strategy for the next general elections.
“I declined the generous offer of #congress to join the party as part of the EAG & take responsibility for the elections,” Mr Kishor tweeted shortly after the Congress announced his decision.
“In my humble opinion, more than me the party needs leadership and collective will to fix the deep rooted structural problems through transformational reforms,” he added, encapsulating his reservations about the party that he has aired from time to time.
“Following a presentation & discussions with Sh. Prashant Kishor, Congress President has constituted a Empowered Action Group 2024 & invited him to join the party as part of the group with defined responsibility. He declined. We appreciate his efforts & suggestion given to party,” senior party leader Randeep Surjewala tweeted.
Over the last month Mr Kishor had a series of meetings with party chief Sonia Gandhi and made detailed presentations about his plans. These were followed by a string of internal meetings between Mrs Gandhi and the party’s top leaders.
There was substantial resistance from a section of leaders on Mr Kishor’s joining — not just on ideological grounds but also over his links to political rivals like Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Some members of Mrs Gandhi’s special team — including Digvijaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik, Randeep Surjewala and Jairam Ramesh — were among the naysayers, with deep reservations about allowing a free hand to a newcomer.
Today, Congress sources also indicated a trust deficit on both sides, saying Mr Kishor did not appear wholly on board during Friday’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi and the eight-member special team she constituted to discuss the issue. This, they said, was also read as a mark of inconsistency, especially in view of the fact that he had approached the Congress with the rejuvenation plan.
At the meeting, Mr Kishor was offered a slot in the “Empowered Action Group”, formulated to address the “political challenges” ahead of the 2024 national elections.
A day later, he was in Telangana, closeted with Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao with whom IPAC, the organisation he had led for years, signed a deal.
Sources indicated that the given the Congress’s entrenched way of functioning, Prashant Kishor’s big bang changes did not go down well with many in the party. He was also seen as unpredictable, which added to the discomfort of the old-timers. Those in favour of his entry – Rahul Gandhi Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Ambika Soni – apparently failed to carry the day.
The party though has acknowledged the need for a through change in the wake of the exponential defeats since 2014 – the matter was mentioned even in the report of the special committee. The party is expected to formulate its strategy at the three-day conclave in Rajasthan’s Udaipur next month.