A 100-plus seat tally that will produce a fractured mandate, a Rs 400 crore campaign budget, a 500-strong strategy team, 200 rallies by Rahul Gandhi, a clearly defined and leading role for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and creating and leading a Bihar-like grand alliance - that's the essence of Prashant Kishor's revival plan for Congress in the 403-seat UP assembly elections.
According to leading English daily Economic Times, Kishor, a professional poll strategist who's worked with BJP and JD(U), was given the job of reviving Congress in UP around a month ago. ET spoke to a dozen people in Congress leadership and those closely working with Kishor to get a sense of the party's UP plan. Kishor refused to participate in the story. Senior Congress leaders said on the condition they not be identified.
Congress leaders familiar with Kishor's thinking and his interactions with the party's upper echelon said that his argument from the very beginning has been that the party can't be fuzzy about Priyanka's role.
A senior Congress functionary said "Kishor must be expecting Priyanka to be projected as CM candidate...but that seems difficult". This leader said he agrees with Kishor's plan that Congress needs a game-changer in UP. "But what is that game-changer is a million-dollar question".
Kishor's UP strategy, those familiar with his thinking said, also focusses on another nationally prominent Congressowman - ex-Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. He has approached Diskhit to play a "prominent role" in UP and his logic is based partly on community calculation. Dikshit is a Khatri who married a Brahmin, two key communities in UP politics.
Kishor and Dikshit have met, Congress leaders said. He thinks her record as Delhi CM will help. But whether she's a possible CM candidate is a question complicated by her age and her ability/willingness to take on gruelling poll duties.
One Congress leader said Kishor has a conflict of interest in that he's managing elections for Congress while being an advisor (with cabinet minister status) to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. An IPAC senior staffer, however, argued that Kishor was employed by the Bihar government, not by another political party, and he pointed out that Congress was part of the Bihar government.
Against all this is the fact of Nehru-Gandhis backing Kishor. Congress leaders, with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in attendance, held a strategy meeting on UP polls a full year before state elections. "That's unprecedented and shows how important Kishor is," a senior leader said. He added that Congress is feeling more hopeful now. "We are talking 70 seats, 100 seats... that's something," he said.