Sheila Dikshit to be CM face in UP, Priyanka Gandhi to lead campaign?

Prashant Kishor is reviving Congress' chances in the state.

 |  3-minute read |   11-03-2016
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Former Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit may be projected as the Congress party’s chief ministerial nominee for Uttar Pradesh well before the state goes to poll in March 2017, while Priyanka Gandhi is likely to lead the election campaign.

This is understood to be the first recipe suggested by political strategist Prashant Kishor who touched down on the Lucknow turf on Thursday to prepare the Congress party for a one-point mission to take it to the centrestage of politics in north India’s heartland, where it had ruled for four long decades, before sliding into oblivion 27 years ago.

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The party that failed to come up with any formula other than the mix and remix of the "Gandhi" magic over these decades, has apparently now realised the need for something beyond the Gandhi concoction. And Prashant Kishor, who is credited with Nitish Kumar’s sweep in Bihar, took his first session with UP Congress Committee (UPCC), where he remained closeted with several senior leaders for the larger part of the day.

The state unit which is full of internal strife and inner contradictions, for once, rose to the occasion to listen to the master political strategist, detailed by none other than the party supremo Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul.

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Welcoming Kishor’s advent in UP, state Congress president Nirmal Khattri told mediapersons, "Well, Prashant Kishor has a proven track record in this field; like experts in other areas, he has the expertise in managing election campaigns; so we are confident that his suggestions will eventually bring dividends to the party in UP."

While none of the Congress leaders were ready to divulge what went on behind the closed doors with Kishor, it was learnt that the name of Shiela Dikshit was suggested as the party’s chief ministerial face, while that of Priyanka as the campaign leader.

Kishor was also stated to have broadly advised UP Congress leaders to prepare a 20-member campaign contingent in each of the 403 Assembly constituencies with one buzzword – "we will take on the BJP.

Sources claimed that such a strategy was being proposed with an eye on the Muslim vote, that seems to be in a mood to drift away from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in which it had reposed its faith for nearly three decades.

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Party insiders felt that if Congress was able to wean away a chunk of the Muslim vote, a large section of the upper caste Hindu and OBC votes would follow course.

Congressmen were also hopeful of attracting a section of the general floating votes by default because of apparent disillusionment with the three key players – SP, BSP and BJP - between whom power has been doing rounds over the past 27 years.

Kishor’s pep talk seemed to revive some hope for Congressmen, who had themselves written off the party from the state. And Prashant Kishor left no stone unturned to inject the necessary adrenaline by reminding partymen that even when the party did its worst in May 2014, the party had polled 11 crore votes across the length and breadth of the country. And that did seem to bring back smiles on the crestfallen faces.

Writer

Sharat Pradhan Sharat Pradhan @sharatpradhan21

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Lucknow.

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