After designing and devising election campaigns in Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya, there is news of political strategist Prashant Kishor gaining entry into the political goings-on down south. The founding member of Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) is said to have approached a top Lingayat leader from the Congress but could not meet him, as per sources. On Thursday, Kishor was in Bengaluru, and speculation is rife that he is trying to persuade Congress leaders in Karnataka to join the TMC.
According to sources in Karnataka Congress, Kishor has a list of leaders he would like to meet and Thursday’s visit was the first in a bid to “poach” Congress leaders. While he tried meeting a top leader from the party, it could not work out. But Kishor met several second-line leaders and some sitting lawmakers. A highly placed source from the Congress said he was likely to approach more leaders in the coming days.
Speaking to News18 on condition of anonymity, a Congress leader said Kishor had a list of party leaders he wanted to meet. “As per my information, he has come to meet MB Patil to ask him if he will join the Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banejee. But Patil has not met him. But they have spoken over the phone. Prashant Kishor wants MB Patil to lead TMC in Karnataka. Everyone knows MB Patil has strong support from the Lingayat community. But MB Patil is a party loyalist, I am told he refused the offer,” the Congress leader said.
Talking about the current political equation in the Congress, another leader, who did not want to be named, said Patil might use this situation. “MB Patil, DK Shivakumar, Satish Jarkiholi and Dr G Parameshwara are strong contenders for chief ministerial post after Siddaramaiah. If Siddaramaiah goes out, then he will back MB Patil and Satish Jarkiholi for sure. There has been a constant effort to remove DK Shivakumar.”
He further said that Patil might meet Kishor confidentially and keep his options open. “BS Yediyurappa is the only man who has complete hold on the Lingayat community. But MB Patil has a fair chance to convert the community towards him. That is possible only if he gets poll position in the Congress,” the leader said.
A political observer said after Yediyurappa stepped down as chief minister, even the Lingayat community was in dilemma. The community knew their leader will not become CM, and if Patil played his cards right, he could pressurise the party high command to remove Shivakumar, along with support from Siddaramaiah and other North Karnataka Lingayat leaders.
“If MB Patil has a dialogue with Prashant Kishor, then the Congress will surely try to hold him back. He might demand for the post of president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee before elections. That is a win-win deal for Patil as well as the Congress. But it will reflect poorly on DK Shivakumar and lead to yet another internal turf war,” said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
According to sources, Kishor is concentrating on getting at least five big leaders from the Congress and figuring out more leaders, who are not active. It is also being said he is making a list of leaders neutral in their ideology.
Some Congress big guns like SR Patil, opposition leader in council and senior leader Pratap Chandra Shetty did not get the ticket for council elections. But new members like Yusuf Shariff, aka ‘scrap babu’, without a political background managed to get the ticket. Many have differences with state Congress president Shivakumar while some are uncomfortable with Siddaramaiah.
According to sources, Kishor wants to utilise such factors and get some prominent leaders on board. The TMC is likely to enter the fray during the 2023 Karnataka assembly election. Banerjee and Kishor have already managed to get a handsome number of leaders in the North, Northeast and western states. The party is has entered the political fray in Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Goa.
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