Prashant Kishor's Gandhi gambit in UP could backfire

Minhaz Merchant
Minhaz MerchantJun 02, 2016 | 09:42

Prashant Kishor's Gandhi gambit in UP could backfire

Prashant Kishor has acquired a winning reputation. He helped strategise the BJP's victory in the Lok Sabha election in May 2014 along with his Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) group, teeming with bright-eyed young IIT/IIM graduates.

Looking forward to playing a key role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, Kishor famously asked the BJP's top brass: after May, what? The bland reply: June.


Off went an aggrieved Kishor to Nitish Kumar, offering his services ahead of the 2015 Bihar Assembly election.


The landslide win for the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance cemented his reputation.

The Congress was quick to recruit him for its Punjab and Uttar Pradesh campaigns in 2017.

Kishor's big challenge of course is Uttar Pradesh. The Congress has 26 MLAs in the state Assembly of 403. So what is Kishor's strategy? He has reportedly told the Congress leadership (code for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul) that unless a "disruptive strategy" is adopted, the Congress will be stuck at 20-odd MLAs. And if a disruptive strategy is adopted? Kishor reportedly says winning 200 seats is possible.

The disruption Kishor has in mind is Priyanka Gandhi. He first told Rahul that he should be the CM face in the UP election.

Priyanka Gandhi. (PTI)

Suitably shocked, Rahul politely declined after taking a few days pretending to think it over. No Gandhi (except Indira in 1964 when dynasty was not yet an Indian political disease) has served even as a Union cabinet minister under a non-Gandhi Congress PM.

But Kishor is made of sterner stuff: he doesn't give up easily. He asked Rahul, how about Priyanka then? Studied silence has descended over 10, Janpath since.


The family is not amused. And yet Kishor persisted: Priyanka must at least lead the Uttar Pradesh poll campaign - not just in the ten Assembly segments in the Amethi and Raebareli constituencies. Congress workers are thrilled with Kishor's idea.

They know that Uttar Pradesh is a lost cause. Anything to give the Congress a fighting chance is welcome.

Unfortunately, the Gandhi family too knows that UP is a lost cause.


The last thing it wants to do, after losing Assam to the BJP, is lose Uttar Pradesh while projecting Rahul as a CM candidate or using Priyanka to campaign all over UP, diluting her residual political brand equity in the face of near-certain defeat.

So why is Kishor, the master strategist, so keen on Rahul and Priyanka? Partly at least because he believes Indian voters love dynasts. Do they?

Perhaps. But perhaps not. Check the winners of the four recent state elections.

Mamata Banerjee is not a dynasty. J Jayalalithaa, despite her association with MGR, is hardly a dynasty either. Nor is Sarbananda Sonowal or Pinarayi Vijayan.


Quite the contrary to what Kishor imagines, dynasty can be toxic. The Gogoi dynasty lost in Assam. The Karunanidhi dynasty lost in Tamil Nadu. The Gandhi dynasty lost in both Kerala and West Bengal.

In the US, the Bush dynasty (Jeb Bush) was defeated in the early stages of the Republican primaries for the 2016 US presidential election. The other dynasty, Hillary Clinton, is being put through the wringer by 74-year-old Bernie Sanders who joined the party a year ago.


For those who still point to the Kennedys, Bushes and Clintons as a validation of dynastic politics, here's what I wrote in my recent book: "Over 225 years and through 44 US presidents, only thrice has a single family produced more than one US president: John Adams (1797-1801) and his son John Quincy Adams (1825-1829); William Harrison (who died in office after serving for just a month in 1841) and his grandson Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893); and of course, most recently, the two George Bushes - exceptions who prove the centuries-old rule of American politics: dynasties don't work."

One can't blame Kishor for trying though. India has political dynasts crawling out of every nook and cranny. So what should Kishor do if Priyanka declines a larger role in the UP elections?

First, he should be relieved. Priyanka's baggage, Robert Vadra, does not travel well outside the Gandhi pocket burroughs of Amethi and Raebareli.

Second, he should get over his obsession with caste and religion. He reportedly wants to craft a Muslim-Dalit alliance in UP and project a Brahmin face as CM.

What has the Congress brought to the table in 60 years? Check out Amethi and Raebareli where a Gandhi has been in charge since Feroze Gandhi won in Rae Bareli in 1952. What is their human development index? Infant mortality rate? Infrastructure? Healthcare? Schools? Kishor will come away with statistics that could change his thinking about dynasty.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: June 03, 2016 | 11:50
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