Mamata Banerjee’s alliance plan gives Gandhis anxious moments.
New Delhi: The Gandhis are not, understandably, enthused by Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s recent efforts to unite the Opposition. With her alliance move, Mamata Banerjee apparently trying to push herself into a pivotal role in central politics is not going down well with the Congress as the grand old party is considering it as something that is going against its own interests.
However, a similar attempt by Mamata Banerjee ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections had come a cropper. She is again trying to gauge the mood of Opposition party leaders. Election strategist Prashant Kishor is understood to be helping her. There is no denying that Congress has weakened more after the 2019 parliamentary polls, which has its bearing on the UPA also. However, no constituent of the UPA left the coalition. But, the leaders of new ally Shiv Sena and old friend NCP keep embarrassing Congress by making one statement or the other.
The Gandhis are not ready to leave the leadership of UPA at any cost. But challenges before the Gandhi family are immense. The scene so far was that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi used to make decisions. But now Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has started intervening directly. What is clear is that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been unable to create any impact in UP. Her backing of Punjab PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu displeased many in the Congress. The disgruntled leaders of G23 group are already unhappy with the party’s decisions. Now the report of Prashant Kishor’s possible entry in the Congress has started giving anxious moments to even leaders close to Rahul Gandhi. In fact, many of these leaders were eyeing the post of political advisor to Rahul Gandhi. But their thinking is that Kishor’s entry, if at all it happens, will spoil their plan. They feel that in such a case Kishor may emerge as the fourth power centre in the party. Another thinking is that Kishor joining Congress will be difficult under the present circumstances, for all factions are against this. Senior leaders had expressed displeasure when Priyanka Gandhi Vadra brought Kishor as advisor in UP during 2017 polls. He has been successful in Bengal. Kishor, who is helping Captain Amarinder Singh in Punjab, has been trying to join Congress for a long time now. He was more in headlines after his meeting with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra recently. However, Congress described Kishor’s meetings with both the leaders as an exercise to prepare a strategy to unite the Opposition.
Mamata Banerjee’s visit to Delhi has intensified the speculation about Kishor joining Congress. Kishor, who is also known to be skilled in managing media headlines, got publicity when Mamata Banerjee was in Delhi for an exercise to unite the Opposition against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That Kishor was behind Mamata Banerjee’s political strategy was the message all around.
Many believe that Congress appeared to be isolated after the entire exercise by Mamata Banerjee began in Delhi. On the question of the leadership of such an alliance, Mamata Banerjee hinted that it could be anyone. In an indirect reference to TMC, Mamata Banerjee said that parties which are influential at regional levels should be supported. But Congress will not accept it. Undoubtedly, Mamata Banerjee has no base in north India. Similarly, Shiv Sena and NCP also don’t have any support base in Hindi speaking belts of north India. Only BJP, some regional parties and Congress, to some extent, have a support base in these parts of the country. Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray have no clout in states such as UP, Gujarat, Himachal and Uttarakhand which are going to polls next year. Only Congress is in contest in these states.
This being the case, why will Congress accept these leaders at the helm? Sources say Kishor is trying to convince the Congress of the plan to unite the entire Opposition. Prashant Kishor may try to impress upon Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi that he is able to help form a front against PM Modi. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra seems to have already given up in UP by announcing that Congress is open to alliance. On the one hand, Kishor is already in Mamata Banerjee’s good books, on the other hand, he is trying to get closer to Congress. Prashant Kishor is aware that sans Congress, any alliance of Opposition parties against PM Modi is meaningless.