Prashant Kishor moots non-Gandhi as Congress president

Kishor said the party should not give ticket or organisational posts to those facing charges of heinous crimes, and strictly implement the principle of one-man-one-post.
Election strategist Prashant Kishor (Photo | PTI)
Election strategist Prashant Kishor (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: Election strategist Prashant Kishor has asked the Congress leadership to elect a non-Gandhi as party president while leaving the three important posts of UPA Chairman, parliamentary board chief and general secretary coordination for Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, respectively.

In his presentation to the Congress leadership, Kishor suggested forming of a shadow Cabinet with 20-25 experienced and new politicians and a brain trust of 10-12 SMEs and global authorities “to effectively represent the voice of the people both in Parliament and outside”. This, he said, would go a long way in countering “elected autocracy” with “collective credibility”.

The strategist said the “traditional media is heavily biased towards the ruling party” and the “current dispensation’s vast network combines the resources of government and party to maintain news stranglehold”. He also said that “timing and choice of propagation for INC is lopsided and not driven by data or science.” He suggested creating “a network of ideologically inclined digital supporters divided into 543 digital zones, each with an ecosystem of approximately five lakh digitally connected people”.

Under the title of “winning arithmetic,” he said to win the general elections 45% of votes cast or 30 crore votes are needed. He focused on eight key groups of population to win these votes from “core supporters”: women, farmers, youth, SC, ST, landless labourers, middle class and urban poor. The party, he suggested, should use the theme of “Gandhi, Truth, Bharosa versus Godse, Jhooth, Jhansa”. To take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said the Congress could expose “the true character and failures of Modi” and use slogans like “hanikarak Modi” and “Modi jaane wale hain”.

Kishor said the party should not give ticket or organisational posts to those facing charges of heinous crimes, and strictly implement the principle of one-man-one-post. Critiquing the “jaded and aged leadership,” he said it had “complete disconnect with the grassroots” and the party had “ceased working as a democratic organization” under them. He highlighted the sense of entitlement and sycophancy in the party and said only 23 out of 118 central leaders of the party are elected.

Six points of Shiva Tandav in PK formula

Yet, the Congress continues to be a “formidable political force” with 90 MPs (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) and 800 MLAs in spite of the fact that it has “faced a steep fall from erstwhile hegemony”. He said the party remained second in 209 parliamentary constituencies in 2019 and came second in 1,072 assembly seats in the state elections between 2016-2021.

Kishor used the symbol of Nataraj (the dancing Shiva) and the six aspects of Shiva Tandav namely Shrishti (creation), Stithi (protection), Anugrah (liberation), Sanhar (destruction), Tirobhav (concealment) and Upsmar (connect) to lay the roadmap for the party’s “reincarnation”. He said the party needs to “preserve its soul” and “create a new body”.

These six foundational resolves comprise creating a new Congress which would become a choice of the masses, protecting the party’s legacy values and core principles, liberation from inertia, mediocrity and status quo, destroying sense of entitlement, lack of accountability and sycophancy, concealing the immutable baggage of nepotism and corruption.

He said the party needs to take five strategic decisions to kick-start the process of reincarnation. These are: Fix the leadership issue, solve the alliance conundrum, reclaim the party’s founding tenets, create an army of grassroots leaders and foot soldiers, and an ecosystem of supportive media and digital propagation.

Kishor said Congress leadership does not appear aligned in terms of goals, strategy, method, approach, tactics and the way forward, leading to a lack of cohesion, at times confusion and stalemate. He did not mince words as his presentation contained stark figures reflecting the party’s “perpetual decline since 1985”. It showed the steady fall in vote share and the number of seats won in Parliament and state assemblies.

He said the party performed particularly poorly when it was in direct contest with BJP. He said in 2019, Congress lost 92% of Lok Sabha seats where it was in direct contest with BJP, compared to 90% similar seats in 2014. He highlighted three possible reasons for the party’s electoral decline: natural disadvantage of being legacy incumbent; four periods of organised mass dissent; and failure to capitalise on legacy and achievements.

Describing the Legacy Incumbency Disadvantage, he said 75 years after Independence, there are still 55 crore people who survive on less than Rs 100 per day of income, 20 crore sleep hungry, 17 lakh are homeless and 16 crore have no access to clean drinking water. India also ranks poorly on key global indices: 102nd on Global Hunger Index, 145th on healthcare access and 120th on human development index.

Going into the history of Congress’ decline, he said four mass movements – JP Movement, Bofors, Mandal, Ram Mandir and the rise of Modi and India Against Corruption — dented its prospects and caused a fall in voteshare.

He pointed out the party’s failure to capitalise on its legacy and the achievements of its governments. He said the first prime minister belonging to the party — Jawaharlal Nehru — was the architect of modern India who gave us parliamentary democracy; Indira created Bangladesh, abolished privy purse and nationalised banks; Rajiv Gandhi brought the telecom revolution and ushered in the panchayati raj system; Narasimha Rao brought economic liberalisation and mid-day meal, Manmohan Singh’s term was the most prosperous decade in India and he brought in rights-based legislations such as RTIRTI , RTRTE, etc.

He highlighted India’s growth story under Congress from 1952 to 2014. He said the per capita income has grown from Rs 1,492 to Rs 96,563 in this period, and life expectancy increased from 32 to 68.02 years between 1952 and 2014.

Rajasthan Congress to have brainstorming session in Udaipur
On a day Sachin Pilot met Sonia Gandhi and sought to know his future role in Rajasthan, Congress sources said the party would hold a three-day brainstorming session (Chintan Shivir) beginning May 13 in Udaipur for Assembly polls due in some states later this year as well as Lok Sabha elections in 2024. All party MPs, MLAs, office-bearers and allied organizations will discuss and prepare a strategy for Mission 2024, party sources said. In 2013, Rahul Gandhi became the party’s vice president during the Jaipur Chintan Shivir.

On similar lines, the party expects major decisions during the May Chintan Shivir. Besides Congress, Working Committee members and veterans, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi will attend the camp. Apart from reviewing the party’s recent defeats in the polls in five states, the strategy for upcoming elections, including in Gujarat, will be discussed. Party’s organizational changes will also be taken up. Party sources said discussions would centre on taking Congress out of the transition state and identify changes to be made in the management of the party given the emerging political situation in the country. “The aim will be to combat the BJP’s special strategy for election campaigns,” said a source.

Showing a mirror to the party
Kishor said between 1885 and 1998, the party had 61 presidents, whereas between 1998 and 2022, the party has had only two presidents (Sonia 21 years and Rahul 2 years). He pointed out that more than 65% district presidents and 90% block presidents have not ever had a meeting with the Congress president or even the AICC secretary

Last big campaign
The last mass public outreach campaign by the Congress was Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Yatra in 1990. The party has not undertaken any “pan-India protest or agitational campaign that has lasted for more than 24 hours since 2014,” he added

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