Election strategist Prashant Kishor’s overnight stay at Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao((KCR)’s official residence ‘Pragati Bhavan’ on Saturday has given rise to a lot of speculations. While Prashant Kishor (PK) is scheduled to meet Sonia Gandhi and others on Monday to clinch the issue of his joining the Congress party, his prolonged negotiations with KCR, the protagonist of the third (federal) front comprising non-BJP and non-Congress parties, is sending out several confusing signals.
The poll strategist arrived in Hyderabad early Saturday morning driving straight to Pragati Bhavan from Shamshabad airport and sat with KCR for the whole day. As the discussions were inconclusive till late Saturday evening, PK chose to stay back in Hyderabad and continue talks with KCR on Sunday. About a month ago, both KCR and PK had met one-on-one at the former’s farm house at Erravelli, about 60 km from Hyderabad, for several hours. PK also undertook a tour of several villages in Medak district to know the public pulse. Film actor Prakash Raj was also there among the group that followed the strategist. The actor accompanied KCR to Mumbai where they met Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray. PK at that time is understood to have assured KCR that he would work to help his party, Telagnana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), win the elections in 2023 for the third time. Later he met Sonia Gandhi and made a presentation on 2024 elections. There were speculations galore on whether he would join the Congress and help the Grand Old Party from outside. His stay at KCR’s residence for two days set off fresh round of speculations. Sources close to the TRS say PK had informed Sonia Gandhi about his visit to Hyderabad. Enlisting KCR’s support is needed to dilute the idea of the third front.
If PK joins the Congress or agrees to work for the grand old party from outside, he cannot obviously continue to work for either YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP or Mamata Banerjee’s TMC. In such a case he cannot help KCR either since TRS will be facing a reinvigorated Congress besides the aggressive BJP in next Assembly elections. PK reportedly mooted the idea, in his talks with Sonica, of an alliance between the Congress and TRS. It suits his overall strategy of mobilizing most of the opposition parties to participate in a Congress-led alliance. He might leave YSRCP out given the strained relationship between Sonia Gandhi and Jagan Mohan Reddy literally walking out on the Congress president in a huff and launched his own outfit before 2014 elections. As a result, the Congress in AP is as good as not there. The poll strategist may have been trying to convince KCR to join hands with the Congress. TPCC president Revanth Reddy, a bitter critic of KCR, is a worried man on this score. Revanth is right now extremely busy making all out efforts to make Rahul Gandhi’s Warangal rally on May 6 an unprecedented success. He might be forced to take a hard decision if PK succeeds in getting the Congress and the TRS together in an alliance. Revanth cannot work with the TRS chief. KCR, on his part, would put a condition that Revanth must be removed from the leadership role of the TPCC if he has to work with that party in a coordinated manner. A docile leader such as Jana Reddy or Bhatti Vikramarka, a dalit, in place of Revanth Reddy would be acceptable to KCR for an alliance with the Congress. Manickam Tagore, AICC General Secretary in charge of TPCC, however, announced recently that the Congress will not touch TRS with a barge pole. KCR has been attacking the BJP for almost four months ignoring criticism against his family and government by the belligerent Congress leaders. People were wondering at his tactics but now things appear to be falling in place.
KCR had his own ideas about his role in national politics. He was bitterly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA dispensation. He called upon the people to throw the BJP in the Bay of Bengal. Castigating the BJP for dividing the society in the name of religion, he took it upon himself the task of getting rid of the saffron party. He went to Chennai and Mumbai to meet Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Stalin, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. He got Laloo Prasad Yadav’s younger son Tejashwi to visit Hyderabad during which time there was a call from Laloo who praised KCR’s statesmanship. Laloos call to CM was given full publicity. In one of his recent trips to Delhi, KCR wanted to meet Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Admi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal. It looked as though Kejriwal purposely avoided meeting KCR. Surprisingly BJP’s dissident leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy has been saying that the country needs a leader of KCR’s caliber. His Rajya Sabha tenure is getting over. Given the good performance by the BJP in the recent elections in five States, KCR must have realized that an alliance to beat the BJP has to be led by the Congress, however weak and unorganized it may appear. He is realistic enough to drop the idea of his third front without much persuasion. PK may not be able to convince Navin Patnaik and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to join hands with the Congress, but he can talk Mamata and KCR into falling in line. Stalin needs no goading. He has been vehement in his assertions that any alliance without the Congress would be rudderless. Same is the case with Uddhav Thackeray.
PK has been sounding the Congress leaders on his plans to create a viable alternative to the BJP-led NDA. After he made a detailed presentation to Sonia and her top aides, Congress president appointed a seven-member committee to debate over PK’s roadmap to revamp the organization and submit a report within a week. This committee headed by former Home Minister P. Chidambaram consists of Digvijay Singh, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik, KC Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Singh Surjewala. PK was ‘interrogated’ in Sonia Gandhi’s presence by the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel in the process of consultations.
At tomorrow’s meeting with Congress leaders in Delhi, PK is going to assure them that the alliance will have most of the Opposition leaders who were talking against the Congress after its rout in recent elections. As a strategist who can talk to almost all the Opposition leaders and even to leaders like Nitish Kumar who are presently sailing with the BJP, PK , with his extraordinary clout, is going to play a crucial role in building an Opposition alliance that can give a good fight to BJP and its allies. He will be playing the role in the Congress similar to that of late Ahmad Patel. Rahul Gandhi may not have appreciated this critical point but Sonia understood the dynamics of the present day Opposition correctly and PK’s contribution to build an alliance in changed times before agreeing to discuss with the strategist afresh.