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Rahul Gandhi as UP CM candidate: Prashant Kishor trying to kill two birds with one stone?

Prashant Kishor, in one sense, is actually carrying forward the idea mooted by Nitish Kumar and it has the potential of keeping both the clients of Prashant Kishor in good humour.

Raj Singh Raj Singh Published on: May 03, 2016 18:59 IST
Rahul Gandhi
Image Source : PTI Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi:  Prashant Kishor, the new-age chanakya of electoral politics in India, created a flutter in political circles when the leaked media reports suggested that he wants Rahul Gandhi to become Congress party’s face in upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

And it’s not only about the face on campaign materials like posters, flyers, TV and radio commercials. What Prashant Kishor actually wants is that Rahul Gandhi should declare himself the chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Assembly elections to be held in 2017.

And Prashant Kishor has come to this conclusion after minutely analysing the state of Congress party in the state. He believes that if the Congress party has to get out of the 27-year long exile in the state, it has no other option that to fall back on the personal charisma of the members of Nehru-Gandhi family.

Prashant Kishor’s first choice for CM candidate is Rahul Gandhi, second is Priyanka Gandhi and the third is Sheila Dikshit, if these media reports are to be believed.

Also Read: With Prashant Kishor on his side, an ambitious Nitish Kumar aims to do a Narendra Modi in 2019 LS polls

Priyanka Gandhi is yet to make up her mind about joining the electoral politics and if she decides to make an entry then there is a danger of her emerging as a parallel power centre in the party which Sonia Gandhi would not like at this moment.  As far as Sheila Dikshit is concerned, age is not on her side. Under these circumstances, Rahul is the only person who could be available to be seen as fit into Prashant kishor’s scheme of things.

The question is – why does Prashant Kishor want Rahul to get into regional politics when he has set his eyes on national horizon? In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was the unofficial PM candidate of the Congress party. Why would he agree to take up the regional role?

Prashant Kishor’s argument is that if he wins UP for his party in 2017, he would be in a better position to challenge Narendra Modi in 2019. But what if he fails to deliver in UP? Will it not seal the fate of his national ambitions? His opponents will surely point out that if he can’t win a state election then how can he dream of winning a national election? Will a defeat in UP not strike a severe blow to his morale to confidently lead the party in 2019 general elections?

There is no doubt over the fact that the Congress party, which is out of power for last 27 years in the state, is in a very bad state in UP. Rampant factionalism and slipping away of committed vote banks have made the party quite vulnerable in electoral politics. It’s true that Rahul Gandhi will perhaps unite the different faction within the Congress but his success is highly unlikely in a highly polarised politics of UP which is still driven by narrow loyalties to caste, creed and religion.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party had succeeded in creating a committed vote-bank of Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits in the era when it ruled the roost in the state. In course of time, the party lost all these blocks. The party lost Brahmin votes to BJP, Muslim votes largely to SP, and Dalit votes to BSP. Even if Rahul Gandhi becomes the CM candidate of the party, these groups may not return to the party fold because as we say much water has flown through Ganges since the time Congress was voted out of power in the state.

Some political commentators have pointed out that by coming up with this ‘Rahul as CM candidate’ idea, Prashant Kishor is actually trying to kill two birds with one stone.

They point out that by advising Rahul to become CM candidate in UP Assembly elections,  Prashant Kishor wants him to focus on the state leaving the national ‘non-BJP opposition space’ exclusively open for his another client Nitish Kumar.

Everybody knows that Prashant Kishor is more close to Bihar Chief Minister than Rahul Gandhi. In fact, it was Nitish Kumar who encouraged Rahul Gandhi to hire Prashant Kishor as Congress party’s electoral strategist.

Prashant Kishor knows that age is on Rahul Gandhi’s side and he can wait till 2024 but Nitish Kumar, who recently turned 65, has his last chance to realise his dream of becoming Prime Minister in 2019.

Nitish Kumar obviously has moved the first step towards realising his PM ambition by replacing Sharad Yadav as the national President of JD(U). Now he wants to emerge as the face of anti-BJP formation at the national level and for that he needs support of Congress.

Political observers have pointed out that it could be on the prodding of Nitish Kumar that Prashant Kishor has come up with ‘Rahul as CM candidate’ idea.

Interestingly, it was Nitish Kumar who had sarcastically advised Rahul to first become CM of UP before he aspired for 7, Race Course Road. Nitish had made these remarks before 2012 UP Assembly elections.

Prashant Kishor, in one sense, is actually carrying forward the idea mooted by Nitish Kumar and it has the potential of keeping both the clients of Prashant Kishor in good humour.

If Rahul becomes UP CM by any miracle, Kishor can prevail upon him to complete his term and aspire for PM post in 2024. In the meantime, Nitish will find the field open to emerge as the face of non-BJP group in 2019 general elections.

If Rahul loses 2017 Assembly elections then quite clearly Nitish Kumar will have more credibility to claim the leadership of non-BJP opposition in 2019.

The Congress spokespersons have ruled out the possibility of Rahul becoming CM candidate in UP but the Congress vice-president himself is yet to make a comment on this topic. At the same time, it’s a bit difficult to believe that the idea was leaked to the media without Rahul’s consent.  Clearly, the last word from Congress is yet to be heard on this matter.