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Prashant Kishor Quits as Punjab Govt Advisor, Congress To Decide on Entry Soon

Kishor has quit as advisor to the Punjab government. This can be seen as a step towards active politics.

Updated
Politics
5 min read
File image of Prashant Kishor.
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Political strategist Prashant Kishor has resigned from his position as principal advisor to the Punjab government. Kishor's resignation is a clear indication of his transition from a political strategist and advisor to an active politician.

"I have not been able to take over the responsibilities as your Principal Advisor. I request you to kindly relieve me from this responsibility," Kishor said in his request to the Punjab government led by Captain Amarinder Singh.

This comes at a time when there is speculation regarding his induction into the Congress party as an active member.

The Congress is likely to take a final call on Kishor's induction "soon". His entry may also be accompanied by a few key organisational changes in the party.

This article will try and look at the following questions:

  1. What is likely to be Prashant Kishor's role?

  2. Why has he requested for the creation for an empowered committee for key political decisions?

  3. What are the other changes that could take place in the long run?

  4. How is this transition being managed in the Congress and what problems could arise?

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NATIONAL ROLE BUT NO SPECIFIC POST

For some weeks now, the buzz in the Congress has been that a new post of General Secretary in-charge for election strategy could be created for Kishor.

However, party insiders say that Kishor isn't particularly hung up on a specific post and he hasn't made any such demand from the Congress.

In fact, he is said to have been rather flexible during his discussions with the Congress leadership, focusing more on what needs to be done to make the party battle-ready to take on the BJP.

More than a specific post, he is said to have been more particular about two things: that he should have a national role and one that is part of or has direct access to an "empowered body" that takes all key decisions on political strategy.

EMPOWERED BODY FOR ALL KEY POLITICAL DECISIONS

This 'body' that Kishor is said to have suggested is not an existing one like the Congress Working Committee but rather a smaller committee that will have the final say on crucial issues like campaign strategy, alliances etc.

Kishor's insistence on such an empowered decision-making body needs to be seen in context of his track record as a political strategist.

There has been a common thread running through Kishor's successful campaigns such as the BJP's 2014 campaign, the Mahagathbandhan's campaign in Bihar in 2015, the 2017 Punjab campaign for Captain Amarinder Singh, the 2019 Andhra Pradesh campaign for the YSRCP and the 2021 campaigns for the TMC in West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu.

This common thread is that in all of the campaigns handled by Kishor, he has had direct access to the final decision making authority in that particular party. Kishor doesn't want a situation in which his plans for the party or response to a crucial political situation, gets lost due to decentralised decision making.
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Of course, this has been easier so far as he has handled regional parties dominated by a single leader like Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu and YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. Even while working with a national party like the Congress in Punjab, it was Captain Amarinder Singh who called the shots and Kishor reported directly to him.

This may not be possible in a party like the Congress where decision making is far more complicated. An additional difference is that if he joins the Congress, he won't be a hired consultant but a party functionary.

It is to overcome these possible obstacles that he has suggested an empowered committee so that key political decisions aren't delayed.

OTHER CHANGES THAT COULD TAKE PLACE: GREATER CENTRALISATION

The process for a major overhaul in the Congress has already started. The first steps towards it can be seen in the recent Pradesh Congress Committee chief appointments like Navjot Sidhu in Punjab, Ganesh Godiyal in Uttarakhand, A Revanth Reddy in Telangana and K Sudhakaran in Kerala. It can also be seen in the consultation process led by Ajay Maken that is presently underway for the Rajasthan cabinet reshuffle.

All these point towards greater centralisation of power in the Congress and greater assertion on part of the high command.

Kishor's possible entry into the Congress would be both part of this centralisation that is presently underway and it could also hasten this process.

Kishor's work with the Trinamool Congress is particularly relevant here. He began working for the party at a time when it was facing defections due to an aggressive BJP and it also had to deal with competing interests at multiple levels in the party.

Under the advice of Kishor and his Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), multiple power centres were done away with in the TMC especially at the district level. Kishor laid a great deal of emphasis on a hierarchical structure with a clear chain of command.

The result of the Bengal campaign is that the TMC has become a far more centralised structure with Mamata Banerjee at its core and Abhishek Banerjee assuming a more important role.

Similar changes could happen in the Congress if Kishor does come in in a prominent role.

HOW THIS TRANSITION IS BEING MANAGED

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has already sought opinion within the party regarding Kishor's induction in a meeting attended by several senior leaders. His induction also has the strong support of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

This process is now being taken forward by General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal, who is likely to reach out to PCC chiefs, state in-charges and other functionaries.

The feedback that the Congress high command has received so far regarding Kishor's induction has so far been positive. Many in the party system feel that Kishor's entry could improve the perception of the Congress' winnability against the BJP. However, there are concerns that existing structures could get undermined in the process.

A few leaders say that the CWC for instance, wouldn't be the same if a smaller, high level committee for key political decisions gets created.

There are concerns at the state level as well.

For instance, though Kishor has publicly said that he will no longer be involved with I-PAC, it is quite likely that he would insist on the I-PAC's approach being followed or the company being given the responsibility of key state campaigns besides of course the 2024 national campaign.

This could directly be a threat to PCC chiefs and state in-charges who have been till now been deciding on which firm to hire for a particular state campaign.

However, as of now, party sources say that Kishor has not given too many pre-conditions for joining the party. Much of these issues could unfold later on when new processes start getting implemented and a bigger overhaul is carried out.

(With inputs by Ishadrita Lahiri)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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