In a sign of souring of relations between the Congress and election strategist Prashant Kishor, the principal Opposition party on Friday ran him down as a “consultant” and refused to respond after he questioned the party’s revival prospects.
Without naming the party, Mr. Kishor tweeted that those who were hoping for quick revival of the GOP [grand old party] on the basis of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident would be disappointed.
Hitting back, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “It’s a grave sin if anyone views Lakhimpur Kheri in terms of political gain or loss. I wouldn’t like comment a consultant’s remarks”.
Mr. Surjewala’s comments and the timing of Mr. Kishor’s tweet are significant they come in the midst of a speculation that Mr. Kishor could be joining the Congress as part of the “GOP’s revival plan”.
Mr. Kishor, who is now the principal political advisor to Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, said in his tweet, “People looking for a quick, spontaneous revival of GOP led opposition based on #LakhimpurKheri incident are setting themselves up for a big disappointment. Unfortunately there are no quick fix solutions to the deep-rooted problems and structural weakness of GOP.”
Though he didn’t name any leader in his tweet, the obvious reference is to the buzz that Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s arrest in Sitapur, bordering Lakhimpur Kheri district, created in the media as well as social media platforms.
Among Opposition leaders, Ms. Vadra was the first to reach Lucknow and tried to go to the violence-hit region of Tikonia in Lakhimpur Kheri, but was stopped by the Uttar Pradesh administration.
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Eight people, including four farmers, were killed in the October 3 violence after a vehicle — in which Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni’s son, Ashish, was allegedly travelling — ploughed into a group of protesting farmers.
In the early morning of October 4, Ms. Vadra reached the area bordering Sitapur but was not allowed to move further and detained for over two days at a government guest house.
Congress team meets families
Subsequently, a Congress delegation, including Ms. Vadra, former party chief Rahul Gandhi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi managed to meet the families of the victims.
However, the episode also revealed the divide within Opposition ranks, as Congress general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal, in a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, questioned why the government didn’t stop a a five-member Trinamool delegation’s visit to the area on October 5.
But beyond the immediate context, Mr. Kishor’s tweet indicates that a falling out between him and the Congress. Sources told The Hindu that the Congress was divided over his parallel induction as a general secretary and a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
While some senior leaders favoured his entry on his terms, several others, including the group of 23 (G-23) letter-writers or reformists, had serious reservations.
Several loyalists of the Gandhi family were also suspicious of Mr. Kishor after he played a key role in former Goa Chief Minister and senior leader Luizinho Faleiro’s defection to the Trinamool ahead of next year Assembly polls.
After Mr. Kishor met the Gandhis in July to discuss a revival plan and his possible entry, the party had undertaken an elaborate exercise to seek feedback from senior leaders, including the CWC, and had left the final decision to party chief Sonia Gandhi. However, since then both sides had maintained a studied silence on the subject.