The differences between Congress and its poll strategist Prashant Kishor, aka PK, have been mounting following the Indian Armed Forces’ surgical strike across a long and wide front across the LoC and the demonetization of currency notes of Rs500 and 1,000. As a result, PK has been advised to focus on Punjab, rather than UP. The big question, though, is whether Punjab Congress, led by Capt. Amarinder Singh, would let PK have his way in Punjab.
The move to sideline PK in UP followed a stormy meeting in New Delhi on November 8, where the UP Congress leaders conveyed to the party leadership their inability to operate with PK. While the Congress in UP has been generally unhappy with PK’s working style, the strongest difference of opinion came after Kishor’s meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
There is a fear in Congress circles that PK was probably considering an exit from the Congress and drawing up documents for a possible partnership with the SP instead.
May it be recalled that Congress’ CM candidate Sheila Dikshit had in a media interview on November 4 said that PK’s meeting with Mulayam Singh Yadav was ‘strange’ as he was engaged as the Congress strategist and this meeting brought a ‘different kind of picture’ and put a ‘lot of question marks in a lot of people’.
It is said PK has not endeared himself with the Congress Party by insisting on carrying out a Priyanka Gandhi centric election campaign all over UP. It was initially planned that her campaign would take off in the first week of November and would only wind up in mid-January when the last leg of the campaign would kick in and the entire Gandhi family would be fielded.
Sources say that PK has refused to participate in any campaign in UP if Priyanka Gandhi was not brought in and had even offered to resign over the issue.
As was the case earlier in the campaign when PK suddenly withdrew from the ‘27 saal, UP behaal’ campaign, team PK is learnt to have declined to manage the new Dalit campaign in UP that the Congress VicePresident Rahul Gandhi is quite interested in.
The noncooperation led to a delay in the campaign launch this month due to logistical problems. The friction between Team PK and the state unit is learnt to have reached such a stage recently that at one point, many of the members of Team PK moved out of Lucknow and came back to Delhi.
They, however, returned again after things cooled down. Differences apart, PK is acknowledged even by the UP Congress as a ‘brilliant’ campaign strategist. Both the Kisan Maangpatra and the Kisan Yatra were his ideas and were received very well on the ground.
The dynamics in UP is believed to have changed dramatically after the surgical strike across the border followed by an open rift in the SP camp. Both have forced all political parties to recalibrate their strategies.
The Congress also realized that it had lost the momentum gathered with Rahul Gandhi’s Kisan Yatra owing to these two factors. So the party view was that it would not be advisable to field Priyanka Gandhi for a fullfledged campaign at such a juncture. But this has upset PK.