Ghar Wapsi for Prashant Kishor?
The campaign trajectory of the supposed election whizkid
NEW DELHI: A press conference held by Prashant Kishor, election whizkid (of doubtful fame now) while he was with the Nitish Kumar campaign in Bihar, raised eyebrows of some of the journalists present. The interaction with a few senior editors was organised by Kumar’s right hand man in Delhi KC Tyagi. And while Kishor was not on the record really, he made no bones about the fact that he had enjoyed working for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the funds were not limited, and nor was he restrained.
So Kishor built up a huge campaign that brought Modi to power in 2014, with an Assembly election in Gujarat just before providing both a trial ground. The connections worked, the campaign touched new heights, and both Modi and Kishor reportedly esablished rare rapport. So it was a surprise when shortly after, Kishor who was expected by all to remain in the BJP camp, moved out to work on the Nitish Kumar---then an ardent anti-Modi politician--- campaign. And if this was not enough, he moved on to the Congress party, handing its crucial campaign in Uttar Pradesh. And in Punjab with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directly.
Nitish Kumar won, but more because of the hard political campaign run by him and Lalu Yadav in the state. In fact, it did seem to scribes that Kishor did not have enough to do when Tyagi organised the impromptu press conference in Delhi in what should have been the height of the campaign in Bihar. It was not clear why this interaction was held, as it was largely off the record, and Kishor had no announcement to make. He gave few details of the campaign, and spent the better part of the meet warding off questions about his relationship with Modi. Funds, of course were no problem in that campaign.
“Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi” was coined by Kishor for the BJP. Then for the Congress “27 saal, UP, Bihar” for the state elections. He was unable to explain how he could move from differing ideologies, and diametrically opposed leaders to work with the same sincerity and commitment. “I am a professional” Kishor declared, saying that for him the different campaigns were only a job. However, during the campaigns stories of his great relationship with Modi earlier, and Rahul Gandhi subsequently, have always dotted the landscape.
However, there were worrying moments when Kishor ran foul of the Congress leadership at different points of his campaign for them. In Uttar Pradesh he suggested, rather out of the blue, that the Congress should bring in Priyanka Gandhi and that Rahul Gandhi should be projected as the Chief Minister candidate. These suggestions reportedly angered then Congress president Sonia Gandhi. In fact all the signals coming out from Kishor’s team was of a weak Congress that needed to be strengthened by the likes of Priyanka Gandhi. This backroom man in fact emerged as a powercentre in the Congress, alienating local Congressmen and AICC pointsmen with advise, directions, orders that made him and also Rahul Gandhi unpopular with the rank and file.
This was not the case in Gujarat where he was not even seen, although by his own admission given sufficient freedom in terms of funds. In Bihar Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar curtailed Kishor politically whereas after an initial embrace, Amarinder Singh also pushed him to a distance in Punjab. This was after Kishor buoyed by his ‘coffee par charcha’ campaign for the Punjab Congress leader actually crossed his political brief, to act as an intermediary between party factions in the state. This did not go down well with Singh, and it took a little while for Kishor to mend fences.
Interestingly, while there were some media stories about Kishor’s alleged differences with the BJP little was said by either side against each other. Even when Kishor worked for the hard opposition, the BJP refrained from criticising him. There were no political indicators of such differences and thus, led several Congress leaders in UP to actually insist that he was working with the BJP. “He is their man but what do we say, the high command likes him,” a senior UP Congress leader had told The Citizen at the time. Whispers of the same kind were heard from the Lalu Yadav camp with a spokesperson insisting that the Rashtriya Janata Dal “has nothing to do with Kishor ji, he is working with Nitish Kumar and who knows maybe the BJP.”
If the stories of Kishor going back to the BJP for the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections---so far not denied by either side---are true then it could well be reason for both to celebrate his ghar wapsi.