The Congress is not expected to do well in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, said an initial assessment by election strategist Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), which has taken over the task to revive the grand old party’s fortunes in the two states.
Young technocrats and fresh graduates who have been recruited in I-PAC and are now camping in Punjab, where Congress has been out of power for the past 10 years, have said that the party has a tough task in the state and with an energetic Aam Aadmi Party, much more than Kishor’s involvement is needed to bring back Congress to power after a 10-year stint in opposition. Apparently, Kishor has charged a huge sum of money from the party for his advisory services.
Sources said that Kishor, who is credited by his supporters for ensuring electoral wins for the BJP in the 2014 general elections and for Nitish Kumar in Bihar in 2015, has told the Congress not to expect miracles in UP and even in Punjab.
“He has told the Congress leaders that the situation was not too conducive for Congress in both the states and his focus for now was strengthening the roots of Congress, especially in Uttar Pradesh,” a source aware of the development said.
Inspired by chai pe charcha (with Narendra Modi), parche pe charcha (with Nitish Kumar), Kishor, who is referred to as “PK”, has introduced “Coffee with Captain” (with Amarinder Singh) in Punjab, a concept in which the audience will be asking questions to former Congress Chief Minister Amarinder Singh over coffee. However, the “coffee concept” is not getting too much attention in a state where lassi and liquor are more preferred.
Sources in the Congress, however, said that Kishor was in for the long haul and has been asked to help the party till 2019 and the results in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, even if they are not up to the party’s expectations, will not dent Kishor’s role in party affairs. Prashant Kishor has managed to gain a strong foothold in the inner circle of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who, according to party leaders, seeks the strategist’s advice in managing party affairs in Uttar Pradesh.
“The ticket distribution in Uttar Pradesh will be done under the supervision of Prashant Kishor and he is in the process of devising a system through which ticket seekers will be screened. The ticket seekers will be screened by Prashant Kishor and his team and he will interview them personally,” a source said. Elections are scheduled for next year in UP. Kishor, according to sources, is focusing on Dalit and Brahmin votes and has asked Rahul Gandhi to spend considerable time in the state and not go there just for campaigning.
Kishor recently recruited a large number of college freshers and is paying them a handsome salary ranging around Rs 6 lakh annually. Many of the freshers are now staying in plush and fully furnished apartments of Congress leaders in Punjab.