It's a sage Brahmanical advice to the Congress -- go all out to woo the Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh if the party has to regain its lost glory in Uttar Pradesh. And the Grand Old Party has to act fast, for it has only eight-nine months left before announcement of Assembly elections for India's most populous and politically significant state is done by the Election Commission.
The irony is it does not come from within its ranks, from its high and mighty or its lowly subaltern. It comes from Prashant Kishor, a Brahmin from Bihar and official advisor of JD(U) boss and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, to whom Rahul Gandhi has outsourced his Uttar Pradesh assembly poll strategy.
A news report in The Indian Express says, "Kishor's suggestion, made at a meeting of top leaders in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, has divided Congress stalwarts in Lucknow and New Delhi." A senior Congressman, well-versed with the planning of the party's UP strategy, told The Indian Express that Kishor's idea is to tap the Congress vote base from the pre-Babri era when Brahmin voters were at the core of the Congress strategy.
Even if the opinion is divided nobody will have courage and conviction to question Kishor, for he has Rahul Gandhi's total confidence and mandate. This must have been for the first time in Congress 130 year history that an outsider, officially aligned to some other party sits in its internal strategy meeting, not just as a participant but as co-chair with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Kishor subsequently flew to Lucknow to chair meeting of party¹s state and district functionaries leaders in Uttar Pradesh.
The report quotes a young Congress leader and former MP of Uttar Pradesh said: "Brahmins are the only low-hanging fruit that can be plucked by the Congress. The party doesn't have any particular caste with them right now. It is the biggest handicap of the Congress in UP. Unless we build our core, there is no way we can get Muslims on our side who vote only for the winners."
On a theoretical level, Kishor's 'woo UP Brahmins hard' strategy sounds to be a good political strategy. After all in Congress' bygone golden era Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims constituted its core social support base. Today there is no single caste or community on which the party could count on. Someone had remarked during last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, 'Congress sabki lekin Congress ka koi nahi'.
All political parties in Uttar Pradesh for long have been wooing the dominant and influencing Brahmins -- the BJP with legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, temple and other nationalist planks, BSP with slogans like Pandit Sankh
Bajayega haathi badta jayega (also with continued projection of Satish Mishra) and Samajwadi Party with offering various sops and sammelans.
The problem for Congress and Prashant kishor¹s reach out to Brahim strategy is twofold.
First, the proposed strategy has become public when Vijay Bahuguna, former Uttrakhand chief minister and eldest son of one of the tallest leader of Congress from caste Brahmin Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna has raised a banner of revolt against his own party. In retaliation, Congress has thrown out Vijay Bahuguna's son Saket out of the party. Late Hemvati Bahuguna legacy still runs strong in UP and Uttrakhand. This is perhaps not the best message the community could send to the community.
The Congress' best Brahmin faces in Uttar Pradesh are Pramod Tiwari and Rita Bahuguna Joshi (Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna's daughter). They have lived on politics for long and past their prime where they could fire imagination
of people within or outside of their community. The reality is that they look at high command for favours than high command looking at them for initiative or mobilisation.
Second, poll analysis of Uttar Pradesh would show that for several decades, more so since decimation of Congress in late 1980s, the Brahmins have gone with the party which they sense is on the winning side and would recognise that their community's support had titled the balance ¬ first with the BJP, then with BSP and in last assembly elections with SP. As someone from that community told Firstpost with certain smugness during 2011 assembly elections, when they were switching sides from BSP to SP, please remember, 'Bharmin janam ki Chatti Puja karwata hai aur antim sanskar ki puja bhi wahi karwata hai'.
Kishor's diagnosis could be right but does he also have a prescription to convince Brahmins that they belong to Congress and Congress belongs to them particularly when Rahul Gandhi is siding with those who raised slogans to destroy India in JNU campus and going hyper on Rohith Vemula's suicide, never saying a word on misery of economically backward Brahmins.
In contrast Narendra Modi despite the political controversy around Rohith Vemula's suicide, is aggressively wooing dalits. He is letting no opportunity go to eulogize and his thoughts, opening memorials, holding special session of Parliament in honor Bhim Rao Ambedkar's memory and legacy, more so vis-à-vis Jawaharlal Nehru.
Prashant Kishor has to take Rahul¹s challenge as his own.
Kishor, a public health expert turned election strategist has styled himself as a modern day Chanakya, or after an emphatic victory in Bihar for JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine his believers have thrust this mantle on him. In Nitish he found his Chandragupta. Rahul is now perhaps looking at Kishor as his Chanakya who could catapult him (Rahul) to the pedestal of Chandragupta.
Those who interacted with Kishor during Bihar assembly polls know that he likes to be in full control of the situation, no one interferes with him in his work and strategy, no one questions him, he is not afraid to speak his mind out or take on anyone, he reports to only from one person, the supreme boss the political party he works for. In Bihar for instance he didn't recognize existence of likes of Sharad Yadav, lived at Nitish Kumar's residence and reported to him and engaged on daily basis with his ally Lalu Yadav. UP Congress leaders will be in for an entirely new kind of experience while they deal with him or he deals with them.
And yes, Kishor has told Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders that they will be fighting these elections to win to rule the state not to improve the party's tally.