From Guwahati to Chennai, from Delhi to Kolkata, everyone wants the elusive Prashant Kishor. The Modi campaigner who has been instrumental in making Nitish Kumar win a third term, is besieged with offers from parties seeking to stop the Modi juggernaut across India. In Delhi and across state capitals, second-rung politicians are afraid of losing some of their proximity to power if Prashant Kishor lands up and takes over the show.
Kishor is still in Patna, still goes across from the chief minister’s residence to Lalu Yadav’s twice a day to talk about cabinet formation. He has himself been given a carte blanche by Nitish: a Rajya Sabha seat? A key ministry in Bihar? Kishor is reliably learnt to have turned down the generous offers, the price of which would be helping the Mahagathbandhan contest the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in 2019.
Occupying a seat of power is not amongst the 37 year old’s ambitions. His services do come at an undisclosed price, but if money were what he was after, he’d take up all the offers, expanding his Indian Political Action Committee across the country. What drives Kishor is simply being a political consultant and making his client win.
RJD Chief Lalu Prasad with election campaign strategist Prashant Kishor at his residence on 9 November, 2015 in Patna, India.
Kishor had wanted to stay on with the Modi government, and the BJP, but the party’s top brass made it clear to Modi they wouldn’t have him. Part of it was a fight for credit: while Amit Shah and RSS got the credit for the 2014 victory, Kishor and his team felt they had not been given their due.
The thought of humbling Amit Shah was a driving force that made Kishor shift to Bihar. The man who had lived with Modi in his house in Gandhinagar for three years was now living in Nitish Kumar’s house at 7 Circular Road, Patna. Kishor’s first election was the 2012 Gujarat assembly election, Bihar was his third challenge. Using strategies he honed working with Modi, Kishor’s IPAC team went a step ahead in Bihar, micromanaging affairs at the constituency level, doing a lot of what the RSS does for the BJP to create a ‘hawa’ for the party.
Nitish and Lalu have been generous in giving credit to Kishor. After the results were in on 8 November, Lalu publicly called him an “intellectual” and Nitish Kumar invited him before press cameras. This alone was an acknowledgement of how critical Kishor had been to turn things around for Nitish Kumar. Kishor made sure the alliance between Lalu and Nitish went so smooth that on the ground, voters mouthed the word Mahagatbandhan as if it was a singular political party. The IPAC teams impeccable surveyors gave daily independent feedback to all candidates on how they were doing with voters. And the Mahagatbandhan’s campaign strategies were carefully strategised to stump the NDA every other day.
Three criteria for next client
Kishor is learnt to have three criteria to choose his next client. Firstly, wherever he goes, the work has to add up to his mission 2019 — he wants to be behind the winning party or alliance. With this aim, the only party that makes sense is the Congress. Since the road to India 2019 goes through Uttar Pradesh 2017, Kishor, sources say, has his eye on that most important state in Indian politics.
Kishor’s second criterion is that the leader he works with should have some credibility. If Modi’s 2002 problem was a minus, his image as a great administrator in Gujarat was a plus. If Nitish was down and out after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he had his widely acknowledged achievement of having brought Bihar out of darkness.
Occupying a seat of power is not amongst the 37 year old’s ambitions... What drives Kishor is simply being a political consultant and making his client win.
Going by this criterion, Kishor may find nothing exceptional in the leaders who are currently wooing him. Rahul Gandhi’s credibility has not seen much turnaround, Tarun Gogoi is too old, Mamta Banerjee is not known for any innovation in Bengal’s development, and the DMK in Tamil Nadu has no claim to governance fame.
Kishor’s third criterion is that he will enjoy a proximity to the top leader that no other party leader does. That is why Kishor insists on staying with the leader. This is easier achieved in a regional party like the JDU as opposed to a party like the BJP — or the Congress. As the Congress desperately woos Prashant Kishor, such access and unchallenged positioning in a faction-ridden Congress is likely to be a hiccup.
Since Kishor says he is ideology agnostic, who knows if Modi will woo him back? With or without Amit Shah around, that is highly unlikely, since Kishor has already cross the rubicon.
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