Congress needs grassroots not grasshoppers like PK

The Gandhis-led Congress is on Mission Crutchfinder to find its feet again. Repeated poll debacles, plummeting popularity and inconsistency are pushing them to seek saviours outside the party.

Published: 24th April 2022 07:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2022 07:30 AM   |  A+A-

Congress Flag

Congress flag. (File photo)

This is the Age of Insecurity, when false prophets become purveyors of hope. Pseudo apostles are on the prowl, wooing and conning netas who have lost faith in themselves. These sham shamans come with hustle and hard sell, offering crutches and contrary credibility. Their marketing style is hi-tech image conjuring using gadgets and gizmos.

The Gandhis-led Congress is on Mission Crutchfinder to find its feet again. Repeated poll debacles, plummeting popularity and inconsistency are pushing them to seek saviours outside the party. Instead of depending on cadres and trusted leaders, the Gandhis are chasing the pollster for all parties and pocket calculator for all polls, political itinerant PK aka Prashant Kishor, whose ambition has brought him a multimillion poll management business. Are the Gandhis suckers for punishment? Last week, they presented PK to senior Congress leaders as Superman on steroids. Kishor flashed his laptop and gave a 600-slide PowerPoint Presentation. For over six hours, over a dozen senior leaders, including former Union Ministers, were told to listen to PK’s idea of a new Congress and its future. Extolled were the virtues of the man who bills parties obscene amounts of money to replace their cadres with volunteers holding edgy laptops and smart phones. PK hires clever copywriters and graphic designers to mesmerise audience with sexy slides and suave slogans that make him look like a master strategist.

After all, his organisation Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) boasts of working towards reshaping participatory democracy. Instead, it has handsomely reshaped his bank accounts. Whoever the client may be, PK’s sales pitch is the same— “I’m the rabbit’s foot of poll strategy and election execution.” He was sidelined after claiming that Narendra Modi became India’s most popular leader, thanks to I-PAC. He had tricked gullible media platforms to convey Modi won Bihar first and India later because of his strategic planning. In reality, the PM’s successes after 2014 owe nothing to I-PAC, which was sent packing by Modi who treated PK as just another resource.

Once he was out of the charmed circle, PK hawked his election management expertise to various regional parties. However, neither Sonia, Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi seem to possess Modi’s political acumen — 3G conveniently forgot that PK failed miserably to launch Rahul during the 2017 UP elections. He also flopped when he arm-twisted the Gandhis to project the ageing Sheila Dikshit as the CM face and coined a slogan to malign Akhilesh Yadav’s government. In a few months, he persuaded them to ally with SP and created a fresh slogan “UP Ke Ladke.”  Result: Congress polled just six per cent of the votes and got seven seats. PK’s fancy events like ‘Khat pe Charcha’ backfired.

When he failed in UP, he legerdemain-ed success in Punjab. Kishor is an experienced salesman, forget the product’s quality or quantity. He is cool with changing the goalposts. According to reports, he is determined to enter Congress at all costs. Over the past few weeks, the same man who had tried for a Gandhi-Mukt front won over the Gandhi Parivar again. Last year, he was promoting a non-Gandhi as the party chief. According to Congress insiders, the first slide projected Priyanka as the new party president. The next one advised that Rahul be promoted as Modi’s alternative. Many leaders were so disgusted by PK’s hypothesis that one even challenged the prognosis.

At one stage, PK claimed he wasn’t keen on joining the party. Promptly, a senior Congressman reminded the room of PK’s stated desire to join the party. The Bihari Brahmin’s insistence that Congress must ally with Mamata Banerjee in Bengal, Stalin in Tamil Nadu, KCR in Telangana and Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh is obviously to maximise his own economic interest. KCR wants feedback on the coming Assembly elections. The Telangana Congress says Kishor was promised a fat fee. The Congress, in spite of all its calamities, still has capital in the state by being the second largest party with the juice to replace the regional party in the long run. PK’s proposal that Congress fly solo in Bihar and Jharkhand could be an attempt to create a rift between Lalu Yadav and Congress. The RJD chief is a strong supporter of the Gandhis for the past two decades.

The fact is PK is indeed unique because he is India’s first poll-ygamist. He uses various techniques and flirts with multiple parties, driven only by the call of commerce. But, he discovered to his dismay that he was a giant only in his own eyes but an unholy hologram for political parties. Politicians made him richer than his wildest predictions but did not give political recognition. People who know him claim that he is looking for a national role after making millions.

But it is always shocking to see how experienced politicians fell for PK and I-PAC’s dubious charms. Rarely has he converted a loser into a winner. He has been pitching a narrative that but for his mastery Modi, Mamata, Amarinder, Stalin, Nitish, Jagan and Shiv Sena would have lost. For example, after 10 years of incumbency and corruption, Akali Dal was bound to lose. The obvious alternative was the Congress. Amarinder was enamoured by PK’s hype. He was hired and paid well. Amarinder led the Congress to victory but PK hogged the credit and the Captain stopped talking to senior leaders. PK then latched on to Arvind Kejriwal who was far ahead in Punjab. However, PK suffered a humiliating defeat in UP.

His second coming was after netting Nitish Kumar who had left the NDA and floated a Mahaghathbandhan with RJD and Congress. Keeping in view the caste arithmetic, Nitish was assured of victory but PK stole the credit. Seeking political real estate, PK joined JDU as its vice-president, only to be expelled because of domineering behaviour and arrogance. But he found new takers in west and south, all sure winners. DMK was assured of victory because it had a better leader in MK Stalin while AIADMK didn’t.

In Andhra Pradesh, when Chandrababu had left NDA and was facing massive anti-incumbency, PK hypnotised Jagan and claimed I-PAC magic brought YSR Congress to power. In Bengal, Mamata was made to believe that she needed someone who knew the Modi-Shah mindset. Mamata was the obvious CM choice. But PK claimed the laurels. He was warned for meddling in TMC’s internal affairs. Soon after the Bengal elections, PK told national TV, “I do not want to continue what I am doing. I have done enough. Time to take a break and do something else. I want to quit this space. I am a failed politician. I have to go back and see what I have to do.” He added that perhaps he would go to Assam for “doing tea-gardening”.

PK is back in the garden of 10 Janpath from where he wants to launch himself not only as the Congress saviour, but also grab a national role through networking with clients in other states. The Gandhis’ fixation with PK appears to be part of the party’s post-Indira DNA. Rajiv Gandhi chose technocrats like Sam Pitroda, Arun Singh, Arun Nehru to modernise his party. Sonia encouraged IITians like Jairam Ramesh and Nandan Nilekani to give it sheen. But Congress lost the masses. It certainly cannot be revived with PPTs and party hoppers.

PK has proved that people who fool themselves that they cannot be fooled are the best business opportunities. There is more native wisdom and acumen in the ranks than in the motherboard of political vanity. The Congress needs the grassroots to win, not grasshoppers like Kishor who leap from party to party as the arbiters of election history.

prabhu chawla
Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla



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