Congress UP campaign: Is Ghulam Nabi Azad sidelining Prashant Kishor?
Reeling under setbacks and failing to find its rhythm back, the Congress party appears to be trying to rediscover its political instincts. If some emerging reports are to be believed, the party has decided to drastically cut down the role of electoral strategist Prashant Kishor in chalking out battle-plans for the Uttar Pradesh polls. The power is to be shifted back into the hands of the party's own political leadership, led from the front in UP by the veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad.
A source told Catch that the party is not happy with the lack of rise in its appeal in the poll-bound state, even after the implementation of several of Kishor's strategies. There are disagreements, especially, over the role of party President Sonia Gandhi's daughter, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in campaigning. Apparently, Kishor wants Vadra to campaign on as many as 350 seats, a proposal that the party is wary of.
The party feels, according to the source, that it has a real shot in not more than 60 seats in the state which would essentially mean that Vadra would be proved to have had no effect on nearly 300 seats. This will harm her prospects as a star campaigner in the long run, essentially meaning the next Lok Sabha polls. Azad, it is learnt, wants to protect Vadra's brand value and is therefore not in favour of acting upon Kishor's plan.
The source added that Azad was also not happy with the choice of locations through which Sonia Gandhi's Varanasi rally passed, on 2 August, since the impact did not match the party's expectations. The locations, a spattering of Dalit and Muslim neighbourhoods as well as the final stop at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, had been chosen by Kishor. Gandhi had failed to complete the roadshow. She fell sick midway and failed to make it to the temple, abandoning the event midway.
Another point on which Azad and Kishor differ with each other are the vote banks the party should focus upon, in UP. Kishor, according to the source, feels that the right combination are the forward castes plus Muslims, while Azad is skeptical of widespread Muslim support. Azad feels that Muslims will go for the party which would appear to them as the biggest challenger to the BJP and he doesn't see Congress emerge in that position. The right combination, according to him, is a mix of the upper castes and Dalits. Some observers have also noted that the party appears to be pursuing a soft-Hindutva card in its campaigns right now, with party leaders increasingly visiting temples and beginning their events with the blowing of conch shells.