Poll strategist Prashant Kishor. (File Photo: PTI)
NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: After months of negotiation, political strategist Prashant Kishor is expected to join the Congress soon. On Saturday, Kishor made a detailed presentation for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders.
However, Kishor’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi has created a buzz in Telangana politics. This sudden meeting has fuelled a debate in political circles over its likely impact on state politics and possible changes in political equations in the run-up to 2023 Assembly polls.
This is because the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has engaged the services of Prashant Kishor only recently and his team is currently engaged in conducting surveys for TRS for upcoming Assembly elections. The Congress is the prime Opposition of the TRS in the state and whether the TRS can go ahead with Kishor if he works for Congress remains the big question.
According to sources, Kishor stressed that the Congress should concentrate on 370 to 400 Lok Sabha seats, and the rest they should leave for alliance partners. AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal said a committee would be formed to look at his suggestions and ideas and how to take them forward.
The committee will be required to submit its report within a week’s time. Senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ambika Soni, Venugopal, Priyanka Gandhi and Ajay Maken were also part of the meeting.
The meeting at 10 Janpath lasted for almost four hours. In Telangana, if Kishor could strike an alliance between the Congress and the TRS for Assembly polls, it would be a big blow to TPCC chief A. Revanth Reddy, who joined the Congress from the TDP in 2017 with the sole aim to dethrone Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao's government.
Will Revanth continue to sail with the Congress even after such an alliance takes shape in future is the question that is being hotly debated in political circles. In that case, BJP would emerge as the prime Opposition for the TRS-Congress combine, they opine.
The TRS has been fighting all elections alone since the formation of Telangana state in 2014. It emerged victorious in all the elections with a big majority barring one or two minor aberrations like Dubbak and Huzurabad Assembly bypolls in 2020 and 2021. The TRS has the history of contesting Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in 2004 in alliance with the Congress and the Left parties and again in 2009 in alliance with the TDP and the Left parties.
Kishor’s suggestions to Sonia and Rahul in the meeting that the Congress must target up to 400 seats out of 543 for 2024 Lok Sabha polls and work on alliances wherever the party is weak have further fuelled speculations of possible TRS-Congress alliance at least for 2024 Lok Sabha polls, if not 2023 Assembly polls.
Political circles do not rule out such a possibility in the wake of Chandrashekar Rao trying to forge an anti-BJP front for 2024 Lok Sabha polls and several leaders of non-BJP parties including DMK's M.K. Stalin and NCP's Sharad Pawar openly stating that such a front would not be a possibility without the Congress.
Analysts expect sweeping changes in Telangana's political landscape in the event of a TRS-Congress alliance as several leaders in both the TRS and the Congress who fail to secure party tickets to contest elections may switch to the BJP for their political future.
In the last couple weeks there has been a lot of chatter that Kishor will look after the upcoming Gujarat elections for the Congress. In fact, Naresh Patel, one of the influential Patel leaders, was also supposed to be inducted in the party. Insiders claim that if the 2024 plan gets approved, Kishor may also help out the party in Gujarat.
After the recent losses in the five state Assembly elections, the Congress is in disarray. The leadership of the Gandhis is being challenged for the first time openly as well as behind closed doors. The Gandhis are fighting back on two fronts - first quelling the change seekers who are within the party and second, trying to resist the BJP onslaught.
This is the first formal meeting that has taken place in which Kishor outlined a detailed road map. He has an open offer to join the party but is demanding sweeping as well as radical changes.