After turning its engagement with election strategist Prashan Kishor into a public spectacle for 10 days, the Congress showed a bruised face Tuesday, declaring that Kishor had rebuffed its offer to be part of a group with “defined responsibility” that Sonia Gandhi had formed to revive the party. Sources said the party’s refusal to give him a “free hand” was the reason for the breakdown in talks, the second time in a year.
In a Twitter post, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said: “Following a presentation and discussions with Sh. Prashant Kishor, Congress President has constituted an Empowered Action Group 2024 & invited him to join the party as part of the group with defined responsibility. I have declined. We appreciate his efforts and suggestions given to the party.”
Within minutes, Kishor hit back: “I declined the generous offer of #congress to join the party as part of the EAG & take responsibility for the elections. In my humble opinion, more than me the party needs leadership and collective will to fix the deep-rooted structural problems through transformational reforms.”
I declined the generous offer of #congress to join the party as part of the EAG & take responsibility for the elections.
In my humble opinion, more than me the party needs leadership and collective will to fix the deep rooted structural problems through transformational reforms.
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) April 26, 2022
Several leaders, especially many in the eight-member committee that went through Kishor’s presentation and submitted a report to Gandhi, were dead against the party changing its structure at the behest of an outsider.
“If we hand over the entire election management to him on a platter and allow him to make the changes that he wants, what if he decides to leave the party after a year or, worse, closer to the Lok Sabha elections, what will happen ? Many young leaders who we thought were close to the Gandhis have left the party in the last two years. What is the assurance that he will stay?” a leader told The Indian Express.
A senior leader said Kishor “did not get what he expected” and perhaps wanted a role “wherein he has a free hand in carrying out the radical changes that he wants made in the Congress including altering the leadership structure.”
“He would have reported directly to the Congress president bypassing the party structure, to say in distribution of tickets, a mandate to enter into alliances in some states where the IPAC has commitments like the TRS in Telangana, TMC in West Bengal and YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh. The Congress is not in great shape in these states. So how many seats will these parties give us? At best, 3-4 seats. How can we sacrifice our party units and structure in these states?” the leader said.
Following a presentation & discussions with Sh. Prashant Kishor, Congress President has constituted an Empowered Action Group 2024 & invited him to join the party as part of the group with defined responsibility. I have declined. We appreciate your efforts & suggestion given to party.
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) April 26, 2022
Another leader said one of Kishor’s proposals was to anoint Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as party president, Rahul Gandhi as leader of the Congress parliamentary party and an erstwhile Congress leader as UPA chairperson. The party, the leader said, could not have accepted suggestions by an outsider to change the leadership structure in the party: “We are to hold organizational elections. The party’s elected delegates have the right to choose their leader. How can he dictate that?
Other leaders said the “coterie” around the Gandhis must take the blame for creating a “public spectacle” around Kishor’s presentation, and then shooting down his proposals and resisting reforms since it may render them redundant.
“We have told the world very proudly that even Prashant Kishor can snub us. It’s terrible. All parties list the services of consultants, but they do it quietly. All these things could have been done quietly. Ours is a strange party… we are declaring to the world that we have been whipped and we are showing the bruises too,” a leader said.