Is Prashant Kishor joining Congress?

Prashant Kishor’s recent meeting with the Gandhi top brass has set off some speculation as to whether he is joining the Congress. While Kishor himself is not entertaining this “hysterical speculation”, there is a view that the rest of the Opposition seems more concerned about the Congress state than the party itself. For as Sharad Pawar stated recently, there is no way the Opposition can take on the BJP without the Congress. And for this, the Congress needs to revive itself. Will Prashant Kishor be a part of the revival strategy? He certainly has a plan in place, but sources say he will agree to come on board only if he is given a free hand. That did not happen during his last interaction with the Gandhis, in the 2017 UP elections. The fact that Prashant Kishor has tied up with the rest of the Opposition, from Mamata Banerjee to Pawar to Jagan Reddy to M.K. Stalin to Kejriwal gives him some perspective and an inside seat in stitching together an effective alliance against the BJP. But will the Congress play ball?

Congress too wooing technocrats

The Prime Minister may have reshuffled his Cabinet in favour of bureaucrats over party politicians, but now it looks as if the Congress is planning a similar revamp plan, looking for outside talent over the party faithful. Given the “success” (Team Rahul’s point of view) of Rahul Gandhi’s interviews with like-minded experts on various issues—from the economy to national security—there is a buzz that the party could think of roping in the likes of Raghuram Rajan, Kaushik Basuand even Rajiv Bajaj along with Prashant Kishor to add heft to the party’s governance plank. As a Congress insider put it, Rahul prefers technocrats to heirloom politicians and this view has only been strengthened after Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada’s departure. But while these names may add value to a Cabinet table, they are of little use on ground, which is where the actual battle has to be fought—beginning with the Hindi heartland in 2022. Regardless, Rahul’s recent tweet reaching out to the “fearless people outside the Congress who are taking on the BJP” is being seen in this context of wooing outside talent.

Straight Talk

The Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Dr Bhupesh Baghel, is not one to mince words. In an interview to NewsX when asked about rumours of a rotational chief ministership in his state with rival T.S. Singh Deo staking claim, he pointed out that rotational arrangements are made when the party is sharing power with an ally. But since the Congress had an outright majority there was no such arrangement in place in Chhattisgarh and as he saw it, he was CM as long as the party “high command” decreed it so. He has made his stand clear and well, that’s one way of stopping speculation.

Will Sidhu Stand Up?

At the time of writing the Congress had still not decided on its new Punjab Pradesh chief though the indications were that the incumbent would be replaced by Navjot Singh Siddhu. The fact that Sidhu had made several trips to Delhi in the last month and been granted an audience with both the Gandhis was indication enough that his candidature was being considered over Captain Amarinder’s objections. While the Captain’s camp paints Sidhu as an outsider, an obvious counter point is that in 1998 even the Captain was an outsider when he rejoinedthe Congress. At the time, Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal had opposed his entry. However,it’s not just the pro Captain lobby but otherold timers such as Partap Singh Bajwa, Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Ravneet Singh Bittu and Jasbir Singh Timpa who could take a unified stand against the elevation of Sidhu. And that should worry the Congress leadership, even if it doesn’t seem too perturbed about the wishes of its own Chief Minister.

The Afghan Answer

Congress leader and senior national spokesman Manish Tewari spoke to NewsX in an exclusive interview where he pointed out that Afghanistan could emerge as India’s biggest security crisis, with ramifications in J&K. He asked for a national consensus on the country’s Afghan policy recalling that in 1991 when the US and its Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel had ratcheted up the tensions in Kashmir internationally, both Vajpayee and Rao handled the situation deftly. And the political leader sent by Narasimha Rao to brief the UN was not a Congressman but then LoP Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was undoubtedly the best man for the job. The question is: will PM Modi also reach out to the opposition in a similar manner?