The Congress command will decide on hiring master poll strategist Prashant Kishor, the party’s Punjab leader Navjot Sidhu said Friday, two days after Chief Minister Charanjit Channi indicated he might turn to the man who helped defeat the BJP in the 2017 Assembly election and planned the Trinamool’s stunning victory in Bengal in May.
“The party will decide… if Chief Minister wishes to hire him, it is the party high command (that will) decide,” Mr Sidhu told reporters at a press conference in which he both withdrew his pending resignation as state unit chief and served another ultimatum to the party.
Punjab votes for a new government next year and the feud between Sidhu and former Chief Minister (and ex Congress leader) Amarinder Singh, as well as the former cricketer’s reportedly strained ties with Mr Channi, have left the ruling Congress facing a series of crises.
Principal, many believe, among those crises is Mr Sidhu himself, and his incessant swipes at his own party and government; he launched another one today, attacking the Chief Minister over the state’s drug smuggling problem and the emotionally raw 2015 sacrilege case.
Mr Sidhu and Mr Channi, who he has targeted, have reportedly not seen eye-to-eye since the latter was made the state’s first Dalit Sikh leader, despite the former insisting otherwise.
Mr Sidhu’s resignation as the Congress’ Punjab chief was because he was reportedly not consulted by Mr Channi over appointments to the state’s top cop and top lawyer positions.
Today he said he would return but only “when a new Advocate General is appointed“.
On Wednesday Mr Channi, while attending a meeting on the state’s electricity supply problems, said the party’s state-in-charge, Harish Chaudhary, had recommended Mr Kishor.
“Harish Chaudharyji was even advising to hire Prashant Kishor,” he had said.
In March then-Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said Mr Kishor – who helped craft his victory in 2017, unseating the BJP-Akali Dal combine – had signed on as his “principal advisor”.
In August, though, he resigned, saying he would “not be involved” in the 2022 election.
Ties between Prashant Kishor and the Congress have been strained since the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election and recent truth bombs dropped on the party haven’t helped matters.
Since his mixed results with the Congress, Mr Kishor has gone on to enjoy incredible success planning poll campaigns for political parties, most recently with the Trinamool. The two seem to work well together; his organisation (I-PAC) is also working with the party for the 2023 Tripura elections.
And that could pose a problem for Mr Channi’s hopes of a Prashant Kishor-influenced win, since the Congress-Trinamool relationship has declined, particularly in the build-up to the April-May election.
In October, the two engaged in a full-scale Twitter war, over Mr Kishor’s tweet that questioned the possibility of a revival of the Congress after the events of Lakhimpur Kheri.