Reviving Congress: Prashant Kishor is perhaps wrestling with air
Even as the Congress goes on losing one state after another, talks are on about Prashant Kishor, the master election strategist who has been hired by India's grand-old party (GOP) after his successful stints with the BJP and JD(U).
Can Kishor help the Congress turn the tables around? This is the million-dollar question doing the rounds at the moment.
Congress's electoral reverses are not just routine win or loss
The answer to this question is, however, an emphatic NO. The Congress's electoral losses are not part of routine victories and losses that any party experiences. If one borrows the statistics, the Congress has, barring Karnataka in 2013, failed to deliver in each of the major elections since they came to power with a decent tally of 200-plus in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
They have lost almost all major states and in whichever states they have done well, they have done so riding piggyback on some major regional force---be it in West Bengal in 2011 or Bihar in 2015.
Two years into Modi era, Congress still can't cash in on anti-incumbency
The worrying part is that the Congress, despite two years into Narendra Modi's rule, has not been able to encourage the people of the country to think of an alternative to the NDA despite it failing to flag off major economic reforms.
The BJP has also seen major reverses in states like Delhi and Bihar that have exposed the functioning of its new leadership. It hasn't succeeded in dealing with problems like drought and farmers' suicide but yet, Modi continues to score more than Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the parameteres of popularity.
Kishor's biggest challenge is to ensure that Congress doesn't disappear by LS poll 2019
Kishor perhaps has the biggest challenge of his life to undo this and effect an image makeover for the Gandhi scion before it gets too late. The UP Assembly election is due next year followed by the general election in 2019. In between, a few states that remain under the Congress's rule will also go to the polls and the challenge also lies there for the mother-son duo to ensure that the party doesn't disappear from India's map by the time the country gets ready for the next general polls.
Gandhis---Congress's strongest point is its weakest point today
But can the doctor be successful? The problem with the Congress is that its strongest point---the Gandhis---have become its weakest today since all efforts to kickstart Rahul's leadership have failed. The prolonged delay in annointing Rahul Gandhi as the Congress chief clearly states that the party lacks the confidence. If the resources are not there, can any consultancy help?
Advising parties like BJP or JD(U) is easier because they have leaders who have proved themselves
It is comparatively easier to deal with parties like the BJP and JD(U) since they have popular and powerful leaders at the helm who have proved their credibility as administrators over a long period. Both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, despite their strong clash of personalities, have proved it to the world that they are able administrators.
Rahul Gandhi has no track record
Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, has no such track record. Even as an MP, he has not been seen speaking much, except at his party's inner meetings where there is zero challenge to him and his family. Rahul's strategy in Assam, where his party was in power for 15 years but yet surrendered meekly to an energetic BJP, shows how much disconnected the top leadership of the Congress is from the ground reality.
Logistics won't help if leadership is not there
How can Kishor overcome these drawbacks of Rahul Gandhi? He might have all technological support with bright research heads on earth, but if the people who ultimately matter in elections fail to identify themselves with the leader, not much of a difference will happen.
It is not easy to undo what has decimated the Congress over the decades
Kishor is determined to give the Congress a healthy look by doing away with the system of patronage, bringing in a sense of urgency and injecting fresh blood from the lower levels but all that sounds great on paper.
In a party where the democratic tradition was systematically destroyed to ensure that a family remains in control, implementing these change of habits is not a child's play. Every step Kishor will take will ulimately be directed to the Gandhis since there is no other alternative way of functioning that the party is familiar with. And that makes the entire exercise a mockery.
Corporate-style makeover won't make Congress an inclusive party
The 38-year-old strategist also wants to portray the Congress as an inclusive national party of India. This is a tragic irony that a party, which has survived over 130 years just because it had an overwhelmingly inclusive character once, has to now undergo a corporate-style image makeover.
Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru didn't have to hire strategists to make Congress great
Neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Jawaharlal Nehru had to hire a strategist to give the Congress a people-friendly image. The Congress grew as an organic entity because it had its strengths in its roots. The moment, the roots were cut off, the entity was destined to die a slow death.
Political battles are not fought in conference rooms. Kishor couldn't have helped the BJP in the 2014 general election had Modi not proved his worth as a leader. Had Modi not won three elections in Gujarat before he became the PM and made a strong case of pro-development politics, no Kishor could have given him the final push. Even in case of Arvind Kejriwals, Mamata Banerjees and Jayalalithaas, there has been no need of a Prashant Kishor to boost their political careers.
Repackaging of Rahul Gandhi: How long?
As for Rahul Gandhi, the country is only witnessing pushes and repackaging the same-old leaders for failed causes.
There are enough chances of Kishor seeing his cent per cent record getting ruined after the next set of elections. But that is not his fault. Kishor can, however, try once to dissociate the Rahul Gandhi from the Congress. May be that could bring some lost lost ground back.