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Why Congress made Mohan Prakash U’Khand observer when he’s lost most campaigns he has led

Patna/ New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi has banked on Mohan Prakash time and again over the years. The Congress Wednesday appointed the 71-year-old leader as its senior observer for Uttarakhand, which goes to the polls in February.

Prakash will work with Devender Yadav, the party’s general secretary in-charge for the state, said All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary K.C. Venugopal while making the announcement.

A socialist, Prakash is considered to be close to the Gandhis and has earlier been tasked with similar electoral responsibilities across the country — but hasn’t been able to deliver victory.

Congress sources said that while Prakash, who has a “background in student politics”, is a leader from Rajasthan, he has mostly worked with the AICC’s central leadership, with the high command having deputed him on some key assignments. 

He has also consistently backed former Congress president Rahul Gandhi against the party’s “old guard” during leadership tussles. Party leaders who spoke to ThePrint described Prakash as an “organisation man” with a keen interest in the politics of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. 

Sources said that the leadership in Delhi is hoping that Prakash’s knowledge will help in Uttarakhand, which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. 

Also read: Less Rahul & other central leaders, Congress to make Harish Rawat star of Uttarakhand campaign

Congress’ ‘sober’ socialist

A Congress leader described Prakash as a “sober leader from a socialist background”, who began his political career with the Janata Dal and the Lok Dal.

“He usually accepts what the Gandhis or the central leadership tell him to do. He’s an organisation person,” they said.

Prakash, who’s been a member of legislative assembly once in Rajasthan, started his political career as the students’ union president of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and a leader of the Yuva Janata Dal, the youth wing of the erstwhile Janata Dal.

He contested the Rajasthan assembly elections four times from the Rajakhera constituency, from 1977 to 1990, and won once. At first, he contested as a Janata Party candidate and was defeated, before winning in 1985 on a Lok Dal ticket. In the next election, he contested on a Janata Dal ticket and lost. 

Politicians in Bihar told ThePrint that during his socialist days, Prakash had been close to the late George Fernandes.

 “He is a very good orator with a clean image,” said a former political colleague of his, presently in the Janata Dal (United).

However, Prakash’s progress in national politics hit a wall when he was overlooked twice for a Rajya Sabha seat. 

According to leaders, in 1994, Mulayam Singh Yadav, then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, had considered Prakash for a Rajya Sabha seat from the state, but in the end chose Sanjay Dalmia, a Delhi-based industrialist. 

In 1996, Ranjan Prasad Yadav, then a close associate of Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, took Prakash to meet the CM at his residence. Sources said that Ranjan told Lalu that the party needed people like Prakash in the Rajya Sabha, and the CM agreed. 

But the next day, there was another name on the list of candidates — Hong Kong-based businessman Prem Chand Gupta.

Prakash went on to join the Congress in 2002 after Bihar Chief Minister  Nitish Kumar removed George Fernandes as the JD(U)’s national president.

“He (Prakash) was never in the inner circle of people who mattered — Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar,” said a former JD(U) MP.

Prakash was inducted into the Congress by senior leader Motilal Vora, who described him as a “seasoned politician with years of experience”.

“He came into the Congress during Sonia ji‘s time, when there was an effort to bring leaders from youth politics to Delhi,” said another Congress leader. “He was technically a Rajasthan leader but his political work in the Congress has always been mostly in Delhi.”

The source added that due to Prakash’s student years at BHU, he took a keen interest in UP politics and its various caste equations, and was invested in Bihar politics for the same reason.

Also read: Hindu-vs-Hindutva, Priyanka ‘experiment’ — the strategy Congress is prepping for 2022 & beyond

Responsibilities in the Congress

During his time in the Congress, Prakash has been part of the AICC’s working committee, and has been given responsibilities in states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

In his home state of Rajasthan, he was close to Congress leader C.P. Joshi and, in the runup to the 2008 assembly elections, it was presumed that Prakash would be given a key post if the Congress won and Joshi became CM. The Congress did emerge victorious — but Joshi lost his own seat by one vote. 

Ahead of the state elections in 2012, Prakash was in-charge for Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, both of which the Congress lost. At the time, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, then a UPA ally, had complained to the Congress high command that Prakash was fielding candidates against his party in Gujarat.

In 2013, Prakash was made in-charge of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra for the subsequent state polls. The Congress lost both, in spite of Prakash holding campaign meetings in his hospital room in Mumbai, where he had been admitted with a fractured leg. 

He was replaced in Maharashtra by Mallikarjun Kharge in 2018, and was removed as in-charge of Madhya Pradesh in 2017. In the latter case, the high command was reportedly forced to replace him following complaints from senior leaders such as Kamal Nath, who did not like how Prakash was handling state leaders.

The man who compared RG to JP

In 2010, as Rahul Gandhi, then a recently appointed general secretary of the AICC, was made in-charge of Bihar for the state elections, Prakash famously compared him to the late socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan (JP).

“After Pandit Nehru, Abdul Kalam addressed the children of the country. Similarly, after Jayaprakash Narayan, Rahul Gandhi has addressed the needs and concerns of the youth of the country,” Prakash had said.

The statement caused controversy because JP had four decades prior raised a revolution against Rahul’s grandmother, then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

But in spite of the controversy, Prakash was thereafter elevated to the position of national spokesperson.

“He is a khaas aadmi (special person) of Rahul. They trust him to mediate with differing factions within the Congress,” said a Congress MP.

“Every time there has been a tussle in the party against Rahul, Prakash has sided with him against the so-called ‘old guard’,” they added.

Prakash’s closeness with Rahul has continued, with the former party president giving him key organisational positions in election-bound states, although he has been replaced whenever he failed to deliver victory. 

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: In JP’s latest biography, a key question is missing—did he mainstream Jana Sangh?

Source: The Print

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