- Prashant Kishor handling Congress strategy for Uttar Pradesh and Punjab
- Starting June, he will spend 20 days a month in Uttar Pradesh
- Big announcement from him in mid-June to launch campaign: Sources
That is why Prashant Kishor, who is credited with injecting PM Modi's 2014 campaign with modern number-crunching and electioneering strategy, will virtually relocate to Uttar Pradesh next month. Sources close to Mr Kishor, who has now been hired by the Congress, said he will spend 20 days a month in India's most populous state, and the rest in Punjab, where he is handling the election strategy of Captain Amarinder Singh, who is leading the Congress campaign and is to soon be declared the party's Chief Ministerial candidate.
Sources in Mr Kishor's team in UP - it has about 100 members -say that he has planned "a big announcement" for the Congress in the middle of June to serve as an official kickoff for the party's campaign.
Punjab and UP both vote next year. After a series of losses in big states like Kerala, the Congress is in desperate need of a victory. A winning result in Punjab could salvage morale and the party from being totally written off for now; Uttar Pradesh, with the country's largest population, will be treated as a presage of who will be the next Prime Minister.
In 2014, the BJP won 71 of the 80 parliamentary seats. The only successful Congress candidates were Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
Last week, the Congress was removed from power in Kerala and Assam, and alliances it was a part of fared poorly in Bengal and Tamil Nadu. In the Congress, a party that is a slow adapter to change, the primacy accorded to Mr Kishor has been questioned, with some alleging that he invokes his "24X7 access to Rahul Gandhi" to get his way. Sources say that the BJP's easy win in Assam has strengthened Mr Kishor because he had advised the Congress to ally with two regional parties. That didn't happen, and the parties played a key role in ensuring the BJP's victory.
Sources who work with Mr Kishor said over the last few days in Uttar Pradesh, he has met with Congress leaders from 60 of 80 districts who have been warned that if they want to run for office, they must provide detailed and updated list of thousands of workers who back them in their constituencies. Mr Kishor has also reportedly sought written information from each district-level leader benchmarking strengths and weaknesses in different areas against those of the BJP.