Hyderabad: After Trinamool Congress (TMC) registered a landslide victory in West Bengal assembly polls, one would have expected the much-famed political strategist Prashant Kishor, who was majorly responsible for the party’s victory, to gloat. Especially since he had challenged the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that it would not cross double digit figures. And exactly that happened.
However, Kishor dropped a bombshell on live TV saying that he was “quitting the space” and that he has “no desire to continue any longer” as a poll strategist. “I am quitting despite winning. It’s a tough life and it’s a tough job. I have had enough. It’s time for colleagues to take over,” he added, in an interview with NDTV. This was not a small announcement given Kishor’s expertise in election management and his success rate.
In December last year, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was growing formidable with many leaders of TMC joining the party, Prashant Kishor took to Twitter and said that the BJP will struggle to cross double digits in West Bengal. In a bold move, he had even pinned the tweet. Saying it was prophetic would have been considered unreal. However, he isn’t the one eating his own words.
His foretelling was proved to be true, as BJP settled for 77 as against TMC’s 213 seats in the West Bengal assemly.
Not just in West Bengal, Prashant Kishor and his Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) were also the strategists for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, as the party contested its first election without its towering patriarch M. Karunanidhi, who passed away in 2018. The DMK too assumed power in the state with a comfortable majority.
So that’s 2 for 2 for Prashant Kishore in 2021.
Beginnings of Prashant Kishor
In his 10-year-long career as a political strategist, Kishor has worked with all hues of political parties and almost always remained on the successful side.
Prashant Kishor rose to national prominence when he managed the political campaign of Narendra Modi and helped the BJP to victory in 2014. Even before 2014, Prashant Kishor has been associated with the BJP and Modi; he was part of Modi’s 2012 campaign in Gujarat when he became the Chief Minister for the third consecutive time. He created CAG — Citizens for Accountable Governance — the group that helped with the Modi campaign in 2014.
He designed Modi’s 3D hologram campaign and ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ meetings for the 2014 general elections, consolidating a growing ‘Brand Modi’. Kishor, however, fell out with the BJP, reportedly because of Amit Shah. For many Prashant Kishore is the new “Chanakya” of Indian politics replacing Amit Shah who was famous for winning elections back to back.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Kishore once said: “I do not wish to sound arrogant, but I must say Amit Shah is a most overrated political and poll manager. A disaster. What does he have to show for his great and fabled election management?”
Kishor’s winning streaks
He then went to his home state Bihar to help strategize for Nitish Kumar, who won the election. He formed his new company I-PAC — Indian Political Action Committee — through which he offered his services to the JD(U). In fact, in 2018, Prashant Kishor also joined the JD(U) and was elevated to the party’s Vice President post, before being kicked out by party chief Nitish Kumar after a fallout.
Since 2015, Prashant Kishor has been a part of several winning election campaigns, including Amarinder Singh and Congress’s Punjab campaign in 2017; Jagan Mohan Reddy and his YSR Congress Party’s (YSRCP) campaign in Andhra Pradesh in 2019; and Kejriwal and AAP’s Delhi campaign in 2020. In fact, the YSRCP won a staggering 151 assembly seats out of 175 and 23 Lok Sabha constituencies out of 25 in AP. The main opposition Telugu Desam Party was completely routed.
One of the rare blots in Kishor’s career was Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017, where his famed campaign strategy failed to help the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance come to power.
What next for Prashant Kishor?
Prashant Kishor won the toughest political battle yet, in West Bengal. His decision to quit the space not only came as a rude shock, but also left many extrapolating his future plans. In interviews with other channels, Kishor dropped hints as to what he would do next, after spending some time with his family. “I am done with this work…I am taking a break…I won’t be working for party A and party B… I am quitting this space,” Kishor told CNN-News18.
“Joining politics has always been on the radar. If I decide that, I will have to see what I know and what I don’t know. There are many things about politics I don’t know. But that decision has not been taken yet,” Kishor told India Today TV. Prashant Kishor holds almost a cabinet rank in the place of Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh’s principal adviser. It is said that he would continue on this role, as he chalks out his future course of action.
However, political analyst Sumit Anand however said that Kishor had previously hinted that he wants to contest elections. “When he was suspended from Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Kishor launched an initiative. In no time it garnered a lot of responses from the youth in Bihar. The website he launched has a lot of data on where Bihar stands across different parameters. The registration on the site asked for a lot of personal details of users. Lakhs of people signed up,” he recalled.
Anand opined that Kishor’s next step is likely to be Bihar; meaning that he wants something for himself in his home state of Bihar. While it would not be surprising if that really happened, it is perhaps too early to predict whether Kishor will take up another assignment as kingmaker, or if he will himself look to become the king of India’s political jungle.