Can Rahul Gandhi address Prashant Kishor-Gujarat question, Rajasthan leadership issue before trip abroad?

Rahul Gandhi has come under criticism from some quarters for taking foreign trips when his party back home is struggling with organisational issues. Ahead of his foreign visit later this month, will he able to tie up some loose ends?

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Rahul Gandhi (Photo: File)
Rahul Gandhi (Photo: File)

Both Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi are travelling abroad this month, as per informed sources, although on different dates and to different destinations.

Rahul Gandhi’s visits abroad are increasingly coming under criticism, particularly because crucial organisational matters within the Congress require his presence, attention and clearance at present.

LEADERSHIP ISSUE

For instance, it is an open secret that many regional satraps in the Congress are getting restless. Both Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Sachin Pilot have reportedly given some sort of deadline for their role to be decided in Haryana and Rajasthan respectively. Apparently, the Congress high command (read: the Gandhi trio Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka) recognise their concerns but are unable to act decisively on the leadership issue.

Hooda and Pilot, like a dozen other notable party leaders from poll-bound Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, have been emphasizing the need for quick decision-making and cogent poll preparations. Rahul Gandhi’s recent meetings with some of these leaders have been ‘fruitful’ but party leaders are unsure about an ‘outcome’ before his trip abroad.

PRASHANT KISHOR QUESTION

Meanwhile, Gujarat party leaders - namely Bharat Singh Solanki, Arjun Modhwadia, Shakti Sinh Gohil, Jagdish Thakor, Sukhram Rathva and others - have been advocating that ace poll strategist Prashant Kishor be involved in the state assembly poll preparations.

But Prashant Kishor is not conceding. There have been rumours that Kishor may team up with Naresh Patel, an influential Patidar community leader and chairman of Gujarat’s Shree Khodaldham Trust which manages the grand temple of Goddess Khodiyar.

However, as reported earlier by this columnist, Gujarat is not on Kishor’s agenda. Kishor, while continuing talks with the Gandhis, has been harping on the need for sweeping reforms in the party ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Structural changes in the organisational hierarchy, election management, fund collection, training, social media policy, accountability, transparency and alliance negotiations are high on Kishor’s agenda.

Thus, the Congress story concerning Prashant Kishor is caught in a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Congress leaders, including the Gandhis, want desperately to win some state assembly polls before 2024 while Kishor wants to work on the larger canvas of the 2024 general elections. In Kishor’s scheme of things, he does not want to discourage the Congress from making a bid for power in Himachal, Karnataka or Gujarat, but sources close to Kishor say he does not want to become a central figure in these assembly polls.

RISE OF AAP

The political situation in some of the states going to the polls before 2024 is precarious for the Congress. The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party after their Punjab electoral triumph is posing a major challenge.

As per the Congress’ internal assessment, AAP has developed the potential of cutting into at least 10-15 per cent of votes in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Haryana, where it has started effectively forming a volunteer network. The projections of anti-BJP votes getting divided is troubling the Congress even more because it has no quick fix solution in sight.

2024, on the other hand, is showing some promise. In the Lok Sabha election, the Congress is in a direct contest with the BJP in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, Haryana and Jharkhand. If the Congress prioritises these 200+ Lok Sabha seats and wins one out of every two, the outcome in 2024 will give the Congress and the combined opposition a sense of satisfaction.