The Congress has reached out to election strategist Prashant Kishor to help revive the party. This seems to be a relationship that is mutually beneficial as even Kishor was looking for a platform, especially since his plans to take Mamata Bannerjee outside West Bengal failed to take off in Goa. (This is not to say that she won’t have better luck in the East). If there has to be a pan-India party to take on the BJP, it has to be the Congress. As Kishor himself told the media it would take at least ten years for another party to set up a pan India base. This then rules out Arvind Kejriwal too, though he has had better luck than Mamata Bannerjee in the last elections and is also trying his luck in the next round of state polls slated in Himachal and Gujarat.

Congress does need to get its act together both in terms of leadership and its narrative. From all accounts, Kishor is not suggesting a leadership change but he is suggesting an organisational rehaul, a change in the communication strategy and a narrative that has its own appeal other than countering Narendra Modi. Soon after the latest assembly polls came in, Kishor told the media that this does not mean that 2024 is a done deal for the BJP. As he pointed out in various interviews that there are at least 200 seats in Odisha, Bengal, Kerala, Andhra, Telangana, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu where the BJP has not been able to win more than 50 seats, even at the peak of its popularity. This is where he wants the Opposition to focus. He has also pointed out that a win at the assembly level does not necessarily translate into a win at the Lok Sabha.

However, there seem to be two points to consider. Will PK (as Prashant Kishor is known as) join the Congress or will he work as a consultant? It seems that Kishor is keen on joining the party and also wants a free hand that will take the burden of decision-making away from the Gandhis. Will they allow that? Second, will he be crafting the party’s strategy for the next round of assembly elections or will he focus on 2024? While Congress wants him to begin right away, PK is said to be reticent about getting involved in the state polls because he feels that fundamental changes need to be made first. Don’t forget that one of the states that is due for elections in the next round is Gujarat which is Modi and Amit Shah’s homestate. The AAP is also showing signs of building a base in Gujarat (at the expense of Congress). Notching a loss right in the beginning will not help Kishor, especially as he still has to explain the TMC debacle in Goa.  (Although for the record Kishor claims that Goa was not his project but IPACs, this is semantics at best. Because it is well known that he is the face (and brains) of IPAC. 

In the end, the Grand Old Party is undertaking an interesting experiment. Instead of promoting a leader from within, it is looking at an outsider for help. This move has been initiated by Sonia Gandhi, and could be read as a last try to hold on to the leadership slot for her son Rahul Gandhi. Hence she will be very careful in putting in enough safeguards to ensure that Kishor does not get complete control of the party. Will Kishor come in without complete control? He is known to be a control freak for this is what seems to have led to a parting of ways with Nitish Kumar, some acrimony with Mamata Bannerjee and perhaps even the break with Amit Shah. All said and done, at least the Congress has realised that the status quo is not quite cutting it.  The Gandhis need a booster shot to get the Congress on its feet again. Is PK that booster shot? 

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