At least this rejection was highly avoidable. In its hour of crisis, the Congress leadership seemed to have lost its nerve, and the capacity to think through things clearly. Otherwise, it would not have gone on all fours to invite the mercenary poll strategist Prashant Kishor to come and grace its top hierarchy --- and find itself spurned publicly for its troubles. Right from day one, it was clear that Kishor’s demand for a free hand would be unacceptable. For it meant virtually handing over the control of the party lock, stock, and barrel to him while the party leadership sat at home, all in exchange for the irredeemable promise of an election win. But if the party leaders still engaged Kishor in extended negotiations it could have been more to create the impression that after a long series of electoral losses something drastic was being considered to mend the situation.
Talking to Kishor provided the badly bruised Gandhis the breathing space they needed to ward off a G-23-like attack after the recent humiliation of the assembly polls. We have always argued that what Kishor hawks is not unique; analysing voter data in all its fine detail is now done professionally by most political parties. Indeed, the Congress Party is fortunate that despite its craven behaviour, Kishor rejected the invite. His divided loyalties and continuing professional relationships with rival parties would have been a further source of embarrassment. Kishor’s gumption to demand a place at the head of the Congress table was matched only by the party’s cowardice to frontally confront the question of its lack of a charismatic leader. The redemption for the party lies within it; no outside hired hand can change its fortunes.