New Delhi | ANI: With ace poll strategist Prashant Kishor turning down the offer to be inducted into the Congress citing the need for "transformational reforms" in the grand old party, political analysts say the development could be a setback in the Congess' aim of making its mark in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls as well as the 2024 general elections.

"The preparations of Congress have suffered a setback. After the crushing defeat in the recently held assembly elections in five States, Congress was seeing hope in Kishore's strategy," a source said.

While Congress leaders may not give much importance to Kishor's refusal to join the party, especially on the basis of his role in the party's Special Action Group which has been formulated for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, many think otherwise.

Congress is formulating a fresh strategy to take on the PM Narendra Modi-led BJP government in the general elections slated to be held in 2024.

"The party's future path will be clear at the Udaipur Navsankalp Shivir to be held from May 13-May 15. But before that, to implement the suggestions of Prashant Kishor, Congress President Sonia Gandhi decided to form an Empowered Action Group for the Lok Sabha elections," sources said.

"PK had advised Congress to focus on 370 Lok Sabha seats and change its media strategy. He was offered a position as a member of the Action Group but he gave a jolt to Congress! The question is whether Congress will be able to implement his suggestions without him?," sources said.

Prashant Kishor had also shared the strategy of building a strong alliance against the BJP by keeping the Congress at the Centre of Opposition parties. He had proposed leaving out certain old allies of the Congress and joining hands with new allies, including parties like JDU in Bihar, TMC in Bengal and TRS in Telangana, sources said.

Apart from these parties, Kishor has good relations with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal among others. After the death of Congress leader Ahmed Patel and the sidelining of senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress lacked a strong leader who could parley with other parties and currently, Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi herself is engaging with other party leaders.

Allies like NCP, Shiv Sena have from time to time demanded from Congress to leave the command of UPA, sources said.

Also, Kishor's decision has thrown up a crisis for Congress in Gujarat. Congress is in the process to make Patidar community leader Naresh Patel as Chief Ministerial face by getting him into the party in the Gujarat assembly elections likely to be held by the end of this year.

According to sources, Kishor's strategy was behind this. Naresh Patel had put a condition in front of Congress to give command of campaigning to Prashant Kishor. On Friday, Naresh Patel came to Delhi and met him. He was also scheduled to meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi but the meeting did not take place. Clearly, the 'Gujarat plan' of the Congress seems to be floundering.

However, some Congress sources are claiming that Naresh Patel will join the party. Apart from elections and alliances, Kishor was advocating for major changes within the Congress, which are now likely to be incomplete.

After Kishore's refusal, Congress leader Pawan Khera said to ANI, "Congress has made an identity in the whole country by values and work. When we talk about Congress, we talk about values by rising above the individual level. Talks to strategists are on at different times. We accept everyone's suggestions."

Khera said that there is no harm in his decision (referring to Kishor's call to not join the party). "There must have been some reason why he turned down the offer," he said. However, on the question related to the possibility of PK working for Congress in the future, Khera said that the doors of Congress are never closed.

Posted By: Subhasish Dutta