Election strategist Prashant Kishor has categorically denied reports that he accepted an offer from Madhya Pradesh Congress to handle its campaign for the 24 assembly seats where by-elections need to be held. Most of the seats fell vacant when the loyalists of Jyotiraditya Scindia quit after the senior leader switched to the BJP.
"It was not only former Chief Minister Kamal Nath, but Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh who approached me to take over the campaign for next assembly elections. But I have not accepted and I'm not inclined to take Congress party work in bits and pieces," he told NDTV.
Mr Kishor, who made a sparkling debut in his career as poll strategist with a hugely successful campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, had parted company with the party after differences with then BJP chief Amit Shah.
He had handled the campaign for Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi earlier this year. On the occasion, Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party had pulled off a sweeping victory, almost replicating its record results of 2015.
Mr Kishor has also signed up with Bengal's Mamata Banerjee, who is facing the BJP challenge in her state, and MK Stalin's DMK in Tamil Nadu. Both states go to polls next year and represent a tougher task for the 43-year-old election strategist.
In the years between the BJP and AAP, Mr Kishor had scripted the hugely successful campaigns of the Bihar Mahagathbandhan of Nitish Kumar, the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. He had also made his political debut, joining and quitting Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United.
Last year, he was the architect of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy's campaign for the state.
With the Congress, Mr Kishor's connection has been patchy.
His first two projects with the Congress -- the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab – had delivered widely different results. While the Congress and Samajwadi Party alliance had been decimated at the hands of the BJP, the party pulled off a spectacular victory in Punjab. But for the Congress, the Uttar Pradesh results had rankled and his relation with the party had nosedived, sources said.
Congress sources said Mr Kishor prefers a broader, long term engagement with the party, not work on a state-to-state basis. "We are aware of his feelings. But that's a call only the top leadership can take not individual Chief Ministers or former Chief Ministers," a source in the party said.