Prashant Kishor should lead Congress

Rahul Gandhi has become a metaphor for a congress liability. But Prashant Kishor, the political entrepreneur, looks at the same congress and sees assets.

Congress is tainted now but not discredited for ever. It’s not a pariah. It still has a standing. It has loyal voters. And congress has an ideology which is middle of the road. This Brand-Equity of congress will always be a potential winner.

The bad-side of being right or left wing is that, over time, these parties have to become more of it. The floor has to keep falling, and the shrill becomes overwhelming over time. Congress bi-partisanship will be the winner in the long run, because there is a limit to polarisation, and population will course-correct to centre.

Prashant Kishor has rightly identified a party which he can take over, if possible. Firstly, he doesn’t need to build from zero. Congress is pan-India. Every “ward” of this country has a congress office. And every office is a resource. There are real estates and human resources of immense value locked inside the party. In the balance sheet of politics, congress is more asset rich. The things that need attention are the liabilities which inhabit the top and its cash flow.

A decline in congress can be identified with decline in its patronage. Political parties run on donations. The sustenance of the vast structure like congress needs capital infusion. And people who matter will pay only if their payments matter to them. Investors expect returns on investment.

2024 will be 10 years since congress lost power, from the Centre and in many states. Congress needs a strong energetic character to get the party into back into winning ways. Also, anyone leading shouldn’t bear baggage and name which disadvantages them at the starting line itself.

Unlike Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee, both successful political entrepreneurs who established their own party, Prashant Kishor has an advantage of an all-India profile. Instead of a state or two, he can go the whole country. This idea seems difficult but it’s doable. It shouldn’t be a question of courage, as he has nothing to lose. It’s the question of his insight – which, working with political parties, he should have great inklings by now.

Politics senses fast, and the congress old guards must have foreseen what Prashant Kishor intends. And they will put up a fight, not to defend the Gandhis, but to protect their turf. This is where Prashant’s deal making ability will be tested. He has to have an attractive proposition to draw attention and money into the party and score a few wins, or at least, get the vote share up.

Prashant Kishor realises it’s time to parley his new found aura and attention for a significant political office. His new-found fame has a half-life and will erode soon. Congress is steer-less, the top-dogs are without bark or bite. Once the head is replaced, the rest of the body can be restored to health. Modi can have a pan-India opposition in 2024 which he may not have foreseen.

Prashant Kishore has a plan – and his opportunity is now to take over the congress.