PK needs an undisputed leader else his 'magic' fails
In the Congress' case, none of this applies, No wonder the deal with PK fell through
After all those marathon meetings and presentations running into hundreds of slides, Prashant Kishor's deal with the Congress has fallen through. At least for now. The political advisor/ election strategist/ perception manager apparently decided that the Congress was neither structurally nor politically in a position to benefit from his professional services.
Though Congress insiders tried to play down the snub to the Grand Old Party, it is a matter of record that PK's (as Prashant Kishor is referred to in media circles) 'decline the offer' was announced by none other than the party's media head and Rahul Gandhi loyalist Randeep Surjewala. Since then reams have already been written on what did or might have gone wrong with the negotiations.
PK's cryptic tweet which appeared minutes after Surjewala's hinted that the latter must have felt the party needed to put a lot of things in order before it could benefit substantially from the services of someone like him. That may well be the case. One need not be a Prashant Kishor to see the Congress party's steep descent, its constant dithering and sheer inertia of the top leadership to stem the free-fall.
With the challenge of crucial state assembly elections later this year and the next and the penultimate 2024 Lok Sabha battle not too far away, the Congress and PK may resume their negotiations in the near future. Who knows? But even if they do, what real magic would result from it? There are many ways to answer this question. But right now I shall focus on the most crucial factor.
The leadership issue. To make it simple and not too academic, let's just look at the big successes in the strategist's CV and one of the major losses. In 2013-2014, Prashant Kishor was associated with managing a part of the digital and on-ground campaigning for Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat Chief Minister and Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP.
The jury is still out on how much of the credit should really go into PK's account. From there he moved on to his next high profile client Nitish Kumar in 2015 who again won a resounding victory in Bihar. Ditto with YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu and more recently Mamata Bannerjee in West Bengal.
In all these cases, PK's clients registered convincing electoral victories and either trounced the ruling party or returned to power with a stronger mandate.
From Narendra Modi to Nitish Kumar (whose return to NDA is another story) to Mamata Bannerjee to MK Stalin and even Arvind Kejriwal, PK's clients range from one end of the political spectrum to the other panning across political divides and ideologies.
But look beyond party labels and they all share a common feature. They are popular, mass leaders in their influence area and command undisputed authority within their party fold. From Modi to Nitish to Mamata to Jagan to Kejriwal, is there any palpable challenge or distrust of their leadership? Conversely, do they not stand out as one of the popular mass leaders of their respective states?
In other words PK at best is the force multiplier who comes out with catchy slogans, media friendly imagery and modern techniques of communication which help in effective messaging and push the campaign a few notches above what the traditional organisers would have done. In a hotly contested election in the first-past-the-post system as ours, these few notches can build up a sizeable margin.
Let us now look at the flip side. Among the bigger failures of PK's election management would always be counted the drubbing of the Akhilesh-Rahul duo in 2017 in Uttar Pradesh. The leadership question in this case was in a mess. Samajwadi Party was a divided house with at least three branches going their different ways.
The cadre was divided, confused and demoralised. As if that wasn't enough, the alliance of Akhilesh Yadav-Rahul Gandhi muddled the leadership question further with workers of SP and Congress refusing to acknowledge each other's leaders.
All through the campaign, the dominant question was who would be the real leader if the alliance won in UP? Who would call the shots? Would the alliance continue beyond the victory? No wonder the 'UP ke Ladke' both went home empty-handed and bruised.
Which brings us back to the original argument. That a mass leader and one who commands undisputed authority is the first prerequisite for PK to work his magic. In its present state, Rahul Gandhi is a tried, tested and failed scion in Indian politics and though 'Congresswallas' may shy from saying it aloud, he is neither undisputed nor in command.
(Smita Mishra, Advisor, Prasar Bharati)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.