Prashant Kishor (naam toh suna hi hoga), a brilliant political strategist, who grab the attention of the Indians when he helped through his strategy the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win an absolute majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Kishor and some members of Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) regrouped and started the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC). After first acclaimed success, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hired him and Kishor started working for the 2015 Bihar assembly election, closely with CM Nitish Kumar, a longtime Modi’s rival. Kishor helped Kumar’s “Grand Alliance” rout the BJP’s alliance 178–58. After the Bihar victory, there was gossiping that Kishor is in talk with the Indian National Congress, to run its campaign for the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly election in 2017.
Prashant Kishor’s new role as a cabinet-rank adviser on policy and implementation to Bihar Chief Minister is unlikely to affect his other assignment, even he is working as an advisor to Punjab Congress President Captain Amarinder Singh on the 2017 Assembly elections in the state. If media has to be believed then Kishor’s team have surveyed the first round for Punjab Congress. With the success story of General Elections and Bihar Assembly elections, his model of canvassing and stumping became imperative.
Interestingly, Modi’s ‘chai pe charcha’ and the 3D hologram rally were the CAG’s brainchild. Twitter and Facebook was handled by BJP’s Cyber Cell but most of its social media focus was on WhatsApp. Technology entrepreneur Rajesh Jain’s collection of phone numbers of people sympathetic to the Modi campaign (through those missed calls) was used to bombard those numbers with daily visual messages via Whatsapp. Modi’s speeches across the country had talking points from the CAG, based on feedback from where he was going to address the rally. The Statue of Unity project, which collected iron from people across the country to build a Sardar Patel statue, was the CAG’s idea. Modi personally sat through many of these strategy meetings of the CAG for hours, and was particularly impressed by the hologram idea. The CAG’s core group of members kept expanding throughout the election.
After success story of BJP’s win, the party and its leaders could not digest what they got, they even forgot to give due credits to people contributed to their success. After elections Prashant was sidelined by Amit Shah, he is known for his arrogance and thankless behaviours. As we know, because of Amit Shah even there is silent revolt in party workers too. Since, he has become President of the party, he never bothered to meet leaders of ground level and credit them for their work or contribution. Kishor felt he didn’t getting his due in Modi’s government. He declined a post in the Prime Minister’s office as he felt he deserved better. Kishor and his Citizens for Accountable Governance had hoped to be given a high-profile role in policymaking and implementation in the new government. However, the BJP felt that Kishor had become too big for his boots, and such a role would risk his taking away too much credit for the 2014 victory.
He is one stubborn man who was the reason for the defeat of BJP in Delhi and Bihar.
Kishor was so close to the then Gujarat chief minister that he lived with Modi in his official residence in Gandhinagar. His body, the CAG, made decisions small and big that BJP leaders and workers had to follow. The division of labour between the BJP and CAG was clear. The BJP, led by Amit Shah, worked on electoral strategies down to the booth level, doing much of the traditional work that it takes to win an election. Behind the scenes however, Kishor and his team were acting as force multipliers, packaging and branding Modi in a presidential style election.
Yet, despite such influence on the party, Kishor wouldn’t join the BJP, and the CAG remained an external body. If Narendra Modi had continued working with the CAG, it could have created a parallel structure to the BJP party apparatus, and would thus have created great resentment in the party. BJP President Amit Shah owes his elevation as BJP president to the credit accorded to him for the election win, and Shah’s camp seemed to feel threatened by Kishor.
The battle between Shah and Kishor playing out in Bihar was about more than just personal rivalry. That was a clash of two different models, the old-fashioned party loyalist and the professional campaign manager.
Anyway, practically speaking Narendra Modi needs Amit Shah more than Prashant Kishor. Elections come and go, but a party can only rely on the loyalty of its own leaders. Its relations with external consultants, no matter how brilliant, will be transactional.
Let’s see with old loyal of Narendra Modi how long he can run in the race. Delhi, Bihar, municipal to gram panchayat elections, BJP has witnessed humiliating defeat and party lost its credibility much earlier than expected. On the other hand, Prashant Kishor has established himself as “Kingmaker” the one who crafts the win for party and its leader. Let’s see how long he can live up to his benchmark.